By Emma Cropper
For migrant workers struggling to gain residency in the South Island, a new initiative by the Government may mean living permanently in the country is closer than they think.
It has been a long time coming for many mid-Canterbury families.
Tony Reyes has been living and working at an Ashburton farm since he moved to New Zealand from the Philippines eight years ago.
He and his family want to stay, but they have already had four long-term residency applications turned down.
Mr Reyes' 18-year-old son CJ works beside him on the farm. He hopes to attend university, but the much higher fees non-residential students must pay have put paid to that.
But residency may be closer than he thinks. The Government has announced plans to help long-term foreign workers secure a permanent future in the South Island.
It is open to 600 migrants in the South Island, and it is those who have been living here long term and on temporary work visas who will benefit the most.
"It's a great opportunity and a great help for us as parents," says Mr Reyes. "It's a great help to give them a good future here in New Zealand."
The announcement will help Kiwi farm owners lock down workers, when New Zealanders are turning their back on the dairy industry.
"We find it hard to find enough Kiwi workers," says William Grayling, an Ashburton farm owner. "There are some out there, definitely, but it's whether there are enough out there to fill the gaps and opportunities that there are in our industry, and the migrants are helping us fill that gap at this point."
It will be the middle of next year before Mr Reyes and his family find out if they are among the lucky 600.