Family’s desperate plea to enter New Zealand after son critically injured in alleged bar assault

The parents of a man critically injured in an alleged bar assault are desperately trying to get past New Zealand’s border restrictions to be with their son lying in a coma in an Auckland hospital.

Josh Storer, 25, suffered serious injuries at North Shore’s The Albany bar and restaurant on Friday night. He is now n intensive care after undergoing two brain surgeries.

Storer’s UK-based family – father Ian, mum Dawn and sister Sian Storer – spoke to the Herald about their nightmare battle to see their son, which has left them unable to sleep and sick with worry.

“We’re scared to death,” Ian said.

“He’s our son. He’s on his own. It’s killing us.”

Dawn sobbed: “I can’t begin to tell you how painful it is.”

They are desperate to be at the hospital when their son wakes, but are not sure if or when they will be permitted to travel.

All three have had both vaccinations against Covid-19 – something they hoped would help their case to enter the country.

New Zealand’s border restrictions are in place for all travellers, bar New Zealand citizens and permanent residents, those travelling from a quarantine-free location or people who had been granted a border exception.

Ian said they understood why New Zealand had strict border rules but hoped “something could give” so they could be with their boy.

They filled out an exemption form on Friday [UK time] and expected to wait at least five business days for a response – but Ian fears they have not completed the form correctly.

'You might lose him'

“It didn’t give you a box to tick for the reason we want to come over, so we ticked humanitarian and explained what had happened. There’s nothing that says my son has been involved in a critical accident.

“You’re trying to deal with the fact that you might lose him and you might not be there and trying to get through all the red tape.”

An Immigration New Zealand (INZ) spokesperson said it was sympathetic to the family’s difficult situation – but when granting exemptions on humanitarian grounds, immigration officers had to consider a range of factors.

That included the applicant’s connection to New Zealand, whether New Zealand was their primary place of residence, whether they had alternative options and the impact of not granting entry permission to the applicant.

“INZ has no ability to apply discretion when considering requests for border exceptions.”

The Derby residents say they will board the next flight if given the green light by the New Zealand Government.

“We’ve got bags ready, we’re ready,” Ian said.

The Albany bar where Josh was injured has created a Givealittle page for their “local customer and good friend” to help bring his family to New Zealand.

Every minute away from their son is precious.

If they are approved to enter New Zealand, Sian said it could take 24 days to get to her brother in hospital; taking into account the wait for negative Covid test results, the flight time and a fortnight in MIQ.

The family is hoping they can get an MIQ exemption to get to Josh sooner.

“We actually don’t know how much time Josh has got,” Sian said.

Ian said the New Zealand Police and hospital staff had been “absolutely fantastic”.

They had a Zoom call with one of Storer’s doctors who presented the family with the cruel but “blatantly honest” reality they face.

“He told us there were three scenarios,” Ian said.

“One, he won’t survive. Two, he could survive but with damage, and three, he could survive and almost return, maybe, to normal.”

It was too early to tell what Storer’s future would look like, as doctors have to wait for the swelling in his brain to go down.

The young man has had two surgeries – one to remove part of the skull due to brain swelling, and one to drill through the skull to insert a catheter.

Just trying to get closer to our son

Storer loves fishing and is the type of person who would walk into a room and be everyone’s friend by the end of the night, his mother said.

“He’s that kind of person. He’s got an absolute heart of gold. He would do anything for anybody.”

Storer, who has been in New Zealand for three years on a work visa with a drainage company.

The family is begging to be let into New Zealand, saying they would do anything required of them.

They are not sleeping, spending the night talking to people in New Zealand and the daytime talking to friends and family in the UK.

“Josh’s friends in this country are as devastated as we are,” Dawn said.

Ian said: “Every time the phone goes or a text comes through you panic. You can’t sleep. You can’t turn your phone off to get sleep because you’re waiting for a phone call all the time.

“Please let us in as soon as possible. Even if [we] have to do the isolation. Just get us in the country so we can feel a little bit closer to him. Please.”

A 56-year-old man has been arrested and charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

He is due to appear in the North Shore District Court on Thursday.

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