Immigration NZ denies crackdown on partnership visas, despite record number turned down

People applying to bring their partners to New Zealand are being declined in record numbers - but immigration officials deny they're in the midst of a crackdown.

They do, however, say such visas are now being scrutinised by a single, dedicated team.

On Auckland's Queen St a protest has taken place against decisions that have separated families.

Cherie Smith's partner is in Jordan. Immigration NZ doesn't believe their relationship is genuine, meaning their seven-month-old daughter has been left without her father.

"All I'm wanting is to spend quality time with my husband," she told Newshub. "I want him here and I want his support."

In the past financial year, 2349 partnership visas were turned down - a record high on recent years.

"I'm very confident in the quality of our decision making," said Peter Elms, Immigration NZ assistant general manager.

Immigration relies on documents like banks accounts and bills to prove a relationship is legitimate and enduring. But there's criticism assessing relationships like that is narrow-minded and old fashioned.

"When people are living in family homes overseas, they can't get tenancy agreements, they can't get utility bills in their names because in these countries people live in extended families," said immigration lawyer Alastair McClymont.

Newshub asked Mr Elms if he could accept that in Asia or parts of the Middle East it can be difficult to get documentation.

"No I don't," he said. "No I don't. I think people can get documentation wherever they live."

He claims there's no crackdown.

But visa processing is undergoing massive change - a single team based locally is now managing partnership applicants, as other branches overseas are shut down.

"Over the last week, Hong Kong has closed. Pretoria will be closing," Mr Elms said.

Immigration says that means they'll get better consistency when making decisions.

But people like Nikki Harawira fear that could only mean continued struggles for her and her son.

"His father is missing out on the most crucial years of his life," she said.