This was likely an over-cautious response to a food that has not been linked to a large number of Australia/New Zealand reported issues. In fact, as of March 2017, there have been only two recorded cases of cyanide poisoning in Australia (and none in New Zealand) linked to apricot kernels. However, whether you feel that apricot kernels pose a threat to humans or not, they are not available.
Apricot kernel is one of the unique flavours in medieval Mongolian cooking. It adds a bitter, fruity zest to dishes and is one of the surprising tastes in redactions using it. In an effort to achieve a similar flavour, using commonly available items, I ran a taste test. Below is my write up. If you want to skip to 'what to use', my substitutions are located on page 5.