Australia has resumed deportations of New Zealanders with criminal convictions, with 19 New Zealanders to be flown there this week.
The deportations - vehemently opposed by New Zealand - have been on hold during the pandemic, but are now resuming, according to the New Zealand government.
New Zealand's Health Minister, Chris Hipkins, told local radio that 19 would arrive this week and be kept in an inner-city hotel for two weeks' quarantine before being released into the community. He wouldn't name the city or hotel, saying returnees had been subject to bullying and he didn't want vigilante justice against the deportees.
New Zealand is free of community transmission, with the only coronavirus cases occurring among people in hotel quarantine, and is on heightened alert about the risk the overseas arrivals pose.
Mr Hipkins said the quarantine hotel for the deportees would be guarded with extra police and extra military personnel.
Lawyers say more than 1500 New Zealanders have been reported since 2014, when Australia changed its law to allow deportations of people who fail a character test - which includes people sentenced to a year's prison, and people unfit to plead or acquitted based on mental health problems. Many of the New Zealanders have lived in Australia since they were children.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Adern has urged Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison repeatedly to abandon the practice, including in a well-publicised joint press conference in Sydney at the end of February, where she told him it was testing the relationship between the countries.
Many of the deportees had little to no connection with New Zealand, having grown up and lived in Australia, she said then, calling on Mr Morrison to "send back Kiwis, genuine kiwis, do not deport your people and your problems".
Mr Morrison and Ms Adern had a telephone hook-up on Friday where Mr Morrison said they were to discuss the trans-Tasman travel bubble he has been keen to get in place. It is unclear whether they also discussed the deportations.
Mr Hipkins said on Monday New Zealand would receive the new load of deportees because it was obliged to, but the policy was wrong.
"We don't agree with Australia deporting their problems to New Zealand," he said. "These are people who have committed crimes in Australia, they have lived in Australia, many of them have only a very minor connection to New Zealand and our view is that the Australian government shouldn't be deporting them."
New Zealand has had 1544 confirmed coronavirus cases and 22 deaths. There are just 25 active cases at the moment, all of them among returnees.
Of the 40 cases diagnosed since the beginning of June in New Zealand, 15 are among people returning from Australia, 22 from India and three from the United States.
New Zealand has about 5700 overseas returnees currently in coronavirus quarantine, with about 26,700 quarantined to date.
An Australian Border Force spokesperson wouldn't confirm the deportation, nor provide any information about previous deportations or the pandemic suspension.
The spokesperson said the Border Force "continues to work closely with New Zealand authorities to return eligible New Zealand citizens currently accommodated in immigration detention in Australia".
"Beyond this, we do not discuss upcoming removals before they occur."