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Kiwi gains global award for helping stuck cruisers

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Viki Moore is the type who likes to get stuck into a complex project but even she might not have appreciated how much work she was signing up for when she went into bat for cruisers stuck in both this country and the Pacific during a global pandemic.

Moore's efforts have been recognised in the annual Ocean Cruising Club awards, announced today. The Ocean Cruising Club is a worldwide organisation, and prospective members need to have achieved at least 1000 nautical miles of ocean sailing.

Moore was part of the Team South Pacific 2020 who went to the aid (and are still helping) cruisers stuck because of closed international borders.

"I was pretty chuffed," she said. "It was very unexpected, and I didn't even know I had been nominated. It's very nice to be recognised by them."

Moore, who owns Island Cruising New Zealand, sits on the board of Yachting New Zealand and is a very active sailor and administrator in the Canterbury region, learned about the difficulties faced by cruisers when chatting to a visitor in the early stages of the pandemic who was berthed opposite Moore's boat in Lyttelton Harbour.

She learned "hundreds" of international visitors found themselves stuck in New Zealand but under threat of being kicked out of the country because their visas were running out.

Compounding the issue was the fact very few countries would allow them to enter their waters, with international borders closed, and cruisers also wanted to avoid the Pacific Islands during the summer season because of the threat of cyclones. 

Moore jumped into action, setting up a Facebook group to try to understand how many were affected and how big the problem was.

"I shared it around and asked for people to share their problems and I was inundated with comments from people obviously in some quite stressful situations," Moore said. "I come from a political background, having worked with [former MP Sir] David Carter and caught up with him for a coffee to get some advice.

"We also learned there were a large number of people stuck overseas and that when the borders closed they were not able to come to New Zealand and escape the cyclone season."

What followed was a series of letters written to MPs and the Ministry of Immigration - concerned parties also did the same - which resulted in visiting cruisers being granted visa extensions.

The campaign to help those stuck in the Pacific has been more challenging. They can travel to New Zealand but must commit to spending at least $50,000 on boat repairs and maintenance when they get here.

"It's an ongoing issue," Moore said. "I enjoy a good cause to lobby for - takes me back to my political days."