Migrant families to keep waiting to enter New Zealand despite 1300 rooms opening in managed isolation

The trans-Tasman bubble means about 1300 spots will free up in managed isolation.

About 500 of those will be kept open as a contingency in case there's an outbreak but migrant workers want the rooms used to bring in their loved ones who they haven't seen for more than a year.

Some migrant workers have been separated from their families for more than 540 days. They gathered at Parliament on Tuesday in protest.

Engineer Colin Forrest arrived before his family, to set up their new life here - then COVID slammed the borders shut.

"It just becomes difficult -  more difficult by the day," he told Newshub.

Henco de Beer's son Sion was just four days old when he left South Africa.

He's pictured their reunion a million times.

"And then they walk through those doors - I'm looking forward to that. It's going to be a good day."

These workers are teachers, carers, engineers and builders - and they're asking the Government to let in their loved ones.

"I know my brother has shipped his dog over - but his dog arrived before his wife," one man said.

The trans-Tasman bubble could have offered some hope. It will free up about 1300 spots in managed isolation each fortnight.

The Government will keep 500 places in case arrivals suddenly need to isolate. That leaves between 500 and 800 rooms free.

Migrants workers hoped they could be used for their families. The Prime Minister made a promise to work on reuniting those families.

"We accept that a lot of pain has been caused by the border closures," said Jacinda Ardern. 

But, instead of using the extra spaces to reduce risk by opening those up to more people, the Government will decommission some of the less-secure hotels.

"We're not anticipating the overall number of those coming from the high-risk countries to change."

It's a move welcomed by epidemiologist Shaun Hendy, who says "taking some pressure off" is a good thing. 

But migrant workers had pinned their hopes on the trans-Tasman bubble freeing up quarantine space for their families.