A DIGGER firm owner has been dubbed the "world's best boss" after he paid for a private jet to send his employee back home for Christmas.
Earthmoving chief Mike van Hest paid $7900 (£4,000) to get his employee Stacey Anderson back to his family in Australia after New Zealand went into a countrywide snap Covid lockdown.
After already spending five months away from his family and all flights to Australia being cancelled, Stacey's hopes of spending Christmas with them were looking even more unlikely.
So with that in mind, his boss Mike stepped in and put him on a private nine-seater The Phenom 300E charter plane to ensure he would be home in Oz to see his family and home for Christmas.
Stacey flew home in October and had to spend a fortnight in quarantine before seeing his sons Qubin, 13, and Montell, 19, and his wife Melissa.
And it was a good thing Mike stepped in when he did, as border restrictions in New Zealand remain in place now.
The rules are not set to be reviewed until January amid renewed Covid fears due to Omicron.
Speaking to The Sun Online Stacey, 38, said; "We were having a few beers after work one day and saw on social media that people were flying privately to Australia – we sort of just joked around with it for a bit, well I thought it was a joke.
"Mike took it another way. A few days later he turns to me and goes 'mate, I'm flying you home'."
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Stacey went on: "I owe that man. I just feel blessed there are still people like this in the world.
"Mike's a real good guy and I'll never find another boss like him. He's not only the best boss, he's a good mate. He's like a step-dad to me."
Mike, 65, insisted it was the only way to get Stacey back to his wife Melissa and their sons, so was happy to pay for the one-way ticket for an outstanding highly skilled employee.
"Melissa was getting very very anxious to see him before Christmas," he said.
"I think Stacey was too, but he did not let that on.
"I've usually paid for his flights home once a month – that's how important he is to me and to the company".
"I can speak to any contractor in New Zealand and they all say exactly the same – you can't get good workers at the moment.
"So when you get a good guy, you really want to hold onto them and you look after them."
Stacey was due to fly back to his wife Melissa and his two sons, Montell, 20 and 13-year-old Qubin on August 13.
However, when Stacey got caught up in a job at work, he decided to push back his flight 10 days to get it done.
"He could see the pressure we were under. That's just the kind of guy he is," Mike said.
Days after, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern plunged the nation into lockdown after the country confirmed one coronavirus case.
"The borders then closed, and it was starting to take a toll on my marriage.
"Me and my wife hadn't seen each other in over five months.
"And not only my wife, my kids as well. They're my boys and they need their dad."
Stacey's family moved to Australia in February when Qubin won a rugby league scholarship.
Until August, Stacey had established a routine of staying with his family for one week, before flying back to work for four weeks.
He hopes to return to work in the new year as the New Zealand vaccine rollout continues to improve the circumstances around coronavirus.
Stacey had only been working for the Westpoint Earthmoving owner for a year, but soon developed a special relationship with his boss.
"For a lot of my staff, I treat them like family – especially Stacey," Mike said.
"I did that because of the guy Stacey is."
Mike's generous gesture contends with Sara Blakely who dished out $10,000 and two first-class tickets anywhere to all of her staff after her company was valued at $1.2bn.
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