New Zealand’s closed borders have not stopped a steady flow of migrants from moving to the Waitaki district.
Waitaki Multicultural Council migrant support co-ordinator and Waitaki Newcomers Network co-ordinator Christine Dorsey expected Covid-19 to bring migration to a screeching halt, but that had not been not the case.
“I continue to have an average of 15 new families contact me each month .. and this is exactly the same as the monthly contacts in 2020,” Mrs Dorsey said.
At present, she has 611 families registered in the Waitaki network.
“There are new people coming in all the time.”
A lot of recent arrivals had been attracted to the district by its affordable housing, but most moved for employment opportunities.
That was the case for Dovile and Elias Moore, who moved to Oamaru after studying at the University of Otago in Dunedin.
Mr Moore is from the United States and Mrs Moore from Lithuania.
Struggling to find fulltime work in Dunedin after completing their study – Mr Moore graduating with a degree in physics and Mrs Moore getting her PhD in genetics – they started looking further afield.
“In the South Island, science jobs are hard to find,” Mr Moore said.
After months of searching, he was employed as a Farmers sales and services manager in Oamaru.
Meanwhile, Mrs Moore braved a trip across the world to secure her New Zealand residency.
To get residency, she had to renew her passport, but due to border closures, the Lithuanian travelling consulate cancelled its Australasian visit.
As a result, she had to make the journey back to Lithuania in the middle of the pandemic, and was only able to return to New Zealand because of her husband’s residency.
She is now working as one of Oceania Dairy’s micronutrient laboratory technicians.
“It was a gamble to move here. I got lucky with the Oceania job,” she said.
They were uncertain about moving to Oamaru because of its small size, but are now very happy in the North Otago town.
“Oamaru is a magical place. I have never felt more welcomed and accepted.”
Many other migrants are choosing to stay put in New Zealand, rather than return overseas to potentially dangerous Covid-19 situations.
Originally from Malaysia, Cyrus Lim came to New Zealand in 2017 for a working holiday with ambitions to explore the country. But the environment, places and people won him over moved to Oamaru this year.
He works as a process controller at Oceania Dairy and wants to stay in New Zealand, but he has been struggling to get residency.
Remaining on a work visa presented several stresses.
“[There’s] a lot of insecurity, and [it’s] sometimes a bit unfair . . . the system is very hard.”
It was made harder by border closures, especially for migrants who wanted to return home to visit family, but knew they would not be able to return to New Zealand.
“A lot of them are trying to make the hard decision of whether to stay on with their visa, or give up and go home.”