The Prime Minister has described an immigration inconsistency keeping the families of critical migrant health workers out of New Zealand as "heartbreaking" - and has told the Immigration Minister to try and resolve it.
Talking to Newshub Nation, Jacinda Ardern said she's already spoken to Kris Faafoi about the issue and asked him if there's "anything else we can do" to get the families past the border.
It comes after Newshub spoke to registered nurses who haven't been able to see their babies and children for over a year - a dire situation that's put New Zealand at risk of an exodus of a critical workforce.
Migrant healthcare workers can usually apply for visas for their families once they get a job in New Zealand, but many moved here before the COVID-19 lockdown saw our borders shut.
There's a glaring inconsistency though, with critical workers coming into the country now allowed to bring their families. The workers already here could technically leave New Zealand and travel back with their families, but it would take months, cost thousands and see some risk their lives in COVID-19 hotspots.
Ardern said the hasty decision to close New Zealand's border a year ago, while necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19, meant many families were split up.
"That's one of the devastating things: when we made the decision to shut the border, we did separate people - and now, as we've tried to progressively reunite people, the few categories that we've moved have been family reunification.
"We know that there are devastating stories, but there has been one of the issues with making the decision around the borders. [It] was the right thing to do, but there's no doubt it has an impact."
The Prime Minister said finding a solution to get these workers' families into the country - especially with limited capacity in managed isolation facilities - would be "tough".
But she said she'd been speaking at length with Faafoi to see if anything could be done.
"I have been talking to the Minister of Immigration about, 'Is there anything more that we can do?' Because this particular workforce, if you're coming in now, they are being able to bring in their family, but if you were already here, you haven't.
"So this particular workforce does have an inequity within it. So I imagine that we, as ministers, will keep talking about what we could do."
Ardern says part of the difficulty in offering a solution is there's "no end point".
"The one thing that I'd keep reminding people is that there is no solution that then becomes an end point. There would then be another group who would say 'we're affected too'."
Asked why members of The Wiggles and the nanny of Hollywood actress Kirsten Dunst had been allowed into the country while the families of migrant health workers still couldn't, Ardern said it wasn't about who was more important.
She said she would never characterise it in that way, because critical health workers are now able to enter the country freely with their families.
"What we have here are a group of workers who are already in the country who in some cases wouldn't have had a visa status for their family members usually. Some would have had visas for their family members but they, when the border shut, wouldn't have been able to come in.
"So there's a range of circumstances - none of them are good. No one is sitting here saying that this is a good situation because they [the stories] are heartbreaking. But it has been the consequences of this call that we made to shut the door."