COVID-19: Sectors desperate for staff still struggling despite promise to let in critical migrant workers

Despite promising to help sectors desperate for staff by letting in critical migrant workers, Newshub can reveal only a handful have actually made it through the border.

And New Zealand risks losing workers already here because the Government still hasn't followed through on its promise to let their families in.

Some early childhood centres, like Little Wings in Auckland, can't find enough teachers, and it's tough on owner Tina Liu, who's been looking for a year and a half. 

"It's very stressful," she told Newshub. "There's a huge demand in Auckland for good quality teachers."

In July the Government created a border exemption for teachers stuck overseas or wanting to move here, with 300 spots created. But Newshub can reveal only one person has applied. 

"I would expect them to be here in time for next year," said Education Minister Chris Hipkins. 

Hipkins admitted on Wednesday that managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) rooms set aside for offshore workers have been frozen.

"A number of those are on hold at the moment because of the demand on MIQ."

It's not just early childhood teachers the Government's failed to lure or get through the door. Almost 200 farm workers and vets have visas but are still overseas.

In June 400 farm workers were promised and just 22 have come through, and 50 vets were promised while only 26 have made it.

"It was a token gesture," says dairy farmer Jason Herrick, who wants critical workers prioritised in managed isolation. "We need help, we need workers. We can't keep going with the worker shortages that we have."

Meanwhile critical workers already in New Zealand are leaving.

Southland farm workers Sai and Lex Nalatu haven't seen their three children for three years. Their attempt to bring them over from Fiji was just rejected.

"If worst comes to worst one of us has to leave to go back and be with them," Lex told Newshub. 

That means Lex's boss will have to join the MIQ queue to replace him.

The Government promised to help sectors desperate for workers, but because MIQ is basically broken and so hard to access, it's failing to deliver.