There is no question of whether the Pasifika community has had a positive impact on the Waitaki district.
Despite this, many people belonging to the Pasifika community are held back by barriers presented by Immigration New Zealand.
This is a particular issue for Pasifika youth who want to fulfil the bright futures ahead of them by pursuing teriary studies or a trade, but face paying international fees.
Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group general manager Hana Halalele said the last thing the community wanted was to see pupils with plenty of potential and the desire to further their study fall short because they could not afford international fees.
Sadly, this was the case for many, despite education opportunities being one of the reasons many families came to New Zealand, she said.
‘‘A lot of their kids do really well at school, they excel at their sports — it’s a real shame when they have to wait for those applications to come through and for their families to get residency,’’ she said.
There were a cohort of people who lived the expensive life of renewing annual visas, which included medical assessments and X-ray examinations.
‘‘You kind of get caught up in a cycle,’’ she said.
‘‘It creates a vacuum — it creates a generation of children who are on the work visa.’’
And just because someone was born in New Zealand, as many children of migrants were, did not mean they were a New Zealand citizen — at least those born after January 1, 2006, when the Citizenship Amendment Act 2005 came into effect.
Then came the logistic challenge of obtaining a birth certificate from a country they were not born in, Mrs Halalele said.
‘‘It seems like an endless struggle, just because of our systemic issues within that particular ministry.
‘‘There’s a lot of immigration policy that I think is quite challenging for many families here.’’
For some, the challenge was lessened when Immigration New Zealand introduced the one-off 2021 Resident Visa, but Mrs Halalele said there were many people who were not eligible. In 2017, Immigration introduced a similar one-off pathway to residency called the South Island Contribution Work Visa.
Mrs Halalele said there were about 10 or 11 families who were still on the South Island contribution visa, most of whom had sent in their residency visa applications but were waiting — await that lasted one to two years for some.
‘‘It impacts their kids. If their kids are in year 13 or year 12, they have to wait for those applications to come through and then they can consider a tertiary opportunity,’’ she said.
Rather than go straight to a trade school or tertiary institution, these youth would enter employment to support themselves and their family or save for international fees.
The Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group helped bridge the gap by helping fill out forms, referring people to immigration advisers, acting as community connectors, and helping with X-ray costs for those eligible.
Mrs Halalele said there needed to be transition plans to assist pupils with parents on working visas, assisting them with navigating the system and identifying different scholarships.
There were some ways the community could help.
Mrs Halalele said it was helpful when credited employers offered jobs. They also consider the medium and long-term effects that employment had on migrant employees and the challenging pathway to residency they would face.
‘‘It would be great for those employers to consider the wellbeing of these people they are bringing into the country.’’
Volunteers and mentors were also welcomed, she said.
There were often children of migrant parents who spoke English as a second language and would benefit from a language buddy, or promising athletes who could use a mentor to walk them through elite sport contracts, she said.
These sort of relationships were a win-win, offering people the opportunity to learn about one another’s cultures and the values they share.
‘‘I think part of our goal as a community is to help grow the capability of our people.’’
Immigration New Zealand border and visa operations general manager Nicola Hogg said processing residence applications took longer because they were complex.
Covid-19 had affected the processing time of these applications, especially because the South Island Contribution Work Visa was paper-based, Ms Hogg said.
Office closures, as a result of regional or nationwide lockdowns, meant staff were unable to process these applications as they could not physically access them.
‘‘We appreciate the impact processing times of this visa type has had on people,’’ she said.