Jane Taafaki does not have a tragic story to tell.
At least not yet.
Mrs Taafaki and her family are in their third year of living in Oamaru — and they love it.
Her husband Tony Sam works at Numat, their youngest daughter is at primary school, and their two older daughters are at secondary school.
Mrs Taafaki and her family are in New Zealand on a student visa while she completes the final year of her PhD in public health at the University of Otago.
‘‘Our ultimate goal is to have residency because it gives my children permanence. It’s not nice living under this looming deadline,’’ she said.
‘‘It would be nice to not have to think about that and I know that I am not alone in that sentiment.’’
Their eldest daughter, who is a prefect at St Kevin’s College, turns 18 this year and has desires to pursue tertiary education, but as a dependent she would need to pay exorbitant international fees.
Mrs Taafaki, the Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group Covid-19 vaccination navigator, was concerned by what her daughter’s options would be once she had completed her PhD, and if they were ‘‘blessed’’ with residency, how long that would take to process.
Some people had their questions answered when Immigration New Zealand announced its one-off 2021 Resident Visa — a streamlined pathway to residency.
But Mrs Taafaki was met with disappointment when she saw PhD students were excluded from this opportunity.
‘‘That was discouraging to me because I thought ‘why wouldn’t you want people who are highly qualified to be able to apply?’,’’ she said.
‘‘I don’t know whether I am naive or just really hopeful that the New Zealand Government will recognise the contribution I can make in public health, in Pasifika health, especially here in rural New Zealand and that I will be given the opportunity to stay.’’
It is estimated there are about 380,000 Pasifika people living in New Zealand, about 3000 of whom are in Oamaru. Mrs Taafaki knew there were some with ‘‘tenuous immigration statuses’’.
Because of these tenuous immigration statuses, some were scared to get vaccinated or go to the doctor out of fear they would get deported.
‘‘They are nervous that they are going to be found or deported.
‘‘The Dawn Raids — not only were they not that long ago, but they continue — it’s not a distant memory, it is something that is very real for people even today.’’
Though the Pasifika community made up a large portion of the migrant presence in Waitaki, they were not the only ones struggling with immigration issues.
Mrs Taafaki knew a lot of professional people who had been waiting years for residency, and believed those contributing to the betterment of the South Island should be recognised.
In 2017, Immigration New Zealand introduced the South Island Contribution Work Visa which provided a residency pathway for people on an Essential Skills Work Visa.
But many people in Waitaki have waited years for their residency to be approved through this pathway.
There are highly skilled people in areas that need them, such as Mrs Taafaki who is working in rural New Zealand studying Pasifika health and trying to improve health and wellness of Pasifika people.
Mrs Taafaki had heard from many Waitaki farmers who would be without their migrant workers, who often became like members of their families.
‘‘You wouldn’t eat if there weren’t migrants in New Zealand. They’re contributing to our nursing workforce, our care home workforce, our food-processing workforce — there’s very few places in this country’s economy where you would say that migrants are not contributing.’’
There were many barriers faced by those pursuing residency or living year to year on visas, including fees — especially for larger families.
“You’re looking at thousands and thousands of dollars — how do regular people afford that?
“And that doesn’t mean those people are any less worthy of applying — they still contribute, they still pay their taxes, they work here, their children go to school here, they are contributing to this country, they just don’t have millions of dollars in their pockets.’’
It was scary for skilled migrants who wanted to settle in New Zealand, but were made to feel they were not worthy — and it could very disappointing for people.
‘‘Being in limbo is not an easy play for people to be,’’ she said.
‘‘I appreciate that it shouldn’t be easy, but it certainly is made quite difficult.
‘‘It can be fraught with obstacles for people who don’t know how to navigate a system like that and can’t afford an immigration lawyer.’’