Skilled migrant desperate for young children, wife to join him in New Zealand

A father who moved to New Zealand in February last year as a skilled worker is desperate for his three young children and wife to join him, but the COVID-19 border restrictions are keeping them apart.

Christiaan Kotze, who is from South Africa, and his family had a plan to join him in New Zealand just weeks after he arrived on his work visa to begin their new life. However, the borders were effectively closed soon after he landed and he hasn't seen his family in 11 months.

What worries Kotze is whether his children will remember who he is after being separated for so long.

"What if they arrive after such a long time and I'm a stranger to them? And I'm supposed to be their father," he told The Project on Thursday.  "Especially my youngest one. I don't think she's going to know who I am when she sees me in real life."

Because his children are all aged five years old or younger, he has concerns they don't fully understand why they're apart.

"They don't understand at that age what it means to be on the other side of the world. They don't understand why their daddy is not there and why they have to wait so long."

Immigration advisor Katy Armstrong says for people who work in New Zealand on a visa, it is "almost impossible" to be reunited with family that are due to come out and meet them.

While exemptions do exist for people wanting to enter New Zealand under current restrictions, there aren't any for families of migrant workers.

"We're told the borders are closed but clearly they're not closed. We constantly see people getting into managed isolation on rather dubious grounds as critical workers, such as children's entertainers. What is critical about that?" Armstrong told The Project.

"What we have is a managed border, so it's really down to us how we manage it."

She believes it would only take a small number of managed isolation beds to accommodate families who want to join their loved ones who have moved to New Zealand.

"Giving one percent would give these families the sense that something can be done, and also then they can start to plan their lives."

Kotze says he finds it excruciating the way New Zealand's borders are currently being managed.

"I just want to know when. If I can start counting the days down, that will be something that gives me hope. But at the moment, there's no countdown of when I'll be able to see my family again," he says.

"We made a choice of making New Zealand our home. So we want to be seen as part of the New Zealand family at the end of the day."

Watch his interview on The Project above.