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Born a New Zealander, but solo teen sailor 'gets no support'

by Des Ryan on 20 Aug 2011
Laura on her 38ft ketch Guppy, flying her Dutch flag, but not a New Zealand one .. .
The manager of teenager Laura Dekker, the youngest solo-sailor to attempt to circumnavigate the world and more than half way through her journey, has accused New Zealand of failing to support her, according to Radio Netherlands, even though she has dual New Zealand and Dutch citizenship.

The 15-year-old solo sailor was born on her Dutch parents' yacht when it was docked in Whangarei, giving her New Zealand citizenship as well as Dutch nationality.

Last August, she embarked on a round the world voyage that is expected to last two years. At the end of the month, the young adventurer is due to arrive in Darwin in Australia for a two-week break.

Disconnected:
Her just-appointed manager, Australian Lyall Mercer, says Ms Dekker does not take her New Zealand nationality lightly, especially as she feels 'disconnected' from The Netherlands. The Dutch courts prevented her from leaving port at the age of 13, when her plans were first revealed. The girl was temporarily made a ward of court and required to follow first aid courses and satisfy many other skill tests in preparation of the voyage. Nevertheless, a court decision to lift the ban on her voyage a year later was unexpected.

In the New Zealand Herald, Mr Mercer is quoted as saying, 'Yet she has failed to find any support from New Zealand, unable even to source a New Zealand flag that she wants to fly from her boat 'Guppy' for the duration of her trip. I am surprised that a country so focused on tourism seems to want nothing to do with an opportunity for a record-breaking sailor to fly the New Zealand flag across the world.'

Kiwi spirit:
Dekker had 'reached out' to New Zealand but no one appeared interested, according to Mr Mercer. 'I believe that a young adventurer like Laura displays the adventurous Kiwi spirit that is acknowledged across the world.'
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