Revealed: Just 12 nurses have arrived in New Zealand under Government's controversial residency visa

Newshub can reveal that despite needing 21,000 nurses, only 12 have arrived in New Zealand under the Government's controversial visa which makes them wait two years for residency.

And it appears the decision not to give nurses immediate residency hung on the word "could".

Aged care nurse Narveet is underpaid, overworked, and over it, so much so that after seven years of studying and working in New Zealand, she's moving to Australia because she's sick of waiting for residency.

"It's not only me, it's heaps of nurses who are now planning to leave," she said.

She's also worried about how safe it is for her to work when she has to look after dozens of residents.

"If I'm looking after 70 residents just on my own, what do you think? Is it safe for me?"

Nurses are technically on the residency fast track but are in a select group of migrant workers who need to work for two years first.

Immigration Minister Michael Wood said New Zealand residency is a "very precious and sought-after thing".

"This is a country that people all over the world see as a desirable place and it's not unreasonable for most people to make a contribution to our country before they receive that," he said.

"We've now had over 300 nurses who have chosen this pathway because it's attractive."

Michael Wood.
Michael Wood. Photo credit: Newshub.

However, most of those nurses are already here. 

Since visa applications opened in July, 95 nurses from overseas have applied and 53 got the tick. But only 12 - including one aged care nurse - have arrived in the country. 

The nurses union said New Zealand needs 21,000. 

"We cannot see how this policy is making even a drop in the ocean of difference," said Anne Daniels, president of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation.

Wood expects that over the next month or two, these numbers will begin to build up.

Asked what will happen if they don't build up and if he'd admit this isn't the right policy and needs adjusting, he said the Government "will remain open-minded and it's about getting to the right outcome".

Daniels said they weren't talked to when these decisions were being made and this kind of scenario is continuing.

Newshub has been trying to get the advice Cabinet used to make its decision to make nurses wait. After months of delays, it was released but entirely redacted. 

"I get a lot of free and frank advice," Wood said.

But the advice was released to the National Party under a different official information request. 

A senior ministry advisor said 6 percent of internationally trained nurses leave, so "fast tracks to residency could be used to obtain residency in Australia" - and that's the Government's concern.

"Any of these decisions that we make is based on the advice that we receive and then Cabinet needs to make a judgement on these matters," Wood said.

National's immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford believes there's a "backdoor" way to get residency in New Zealand.

"If you want to get residency in New Zealand as a nurse, the best thing to do is go to Australia which will give you your residence pretty much straight away and then you can backdoor your way into New Zealand," she said.

But Wood maintains the current system is competitive.

"I'm very confident that it's a competitive offer that we have but it is a tight labour market and we'll keep our eyes closely on it."