If ever there was a compassionate ground to grant visitors a permanent visa to New Zealand it is surely those who lost children in Christchurch's CTV building that collapsed in the February 22 earthquake.

Among the foreign students attending a class in the faulty building that day were 23 Chinese students. Their parents come back every year to "sweep" the graves and burn incense to bless the dead in accordance with Chinese tradition.

Their request for a lifelong multiple-entry visa has been declined for no better reason than New Zealand's immigration policy does not provide a visa of this nature.

In many cases these parents have lost their only child, born when China enforced a one-child policy. They have been deprived of enough by rigid policy in their own country, they should not be denied easy contact with their children's graves by official inflexibility here.


The best they can get is a three-year visitor visa, says Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse. Surely he can do better than that.

These people have a deeper emotional connection to New Zealand than some of those given permanent permission to come and go. Their children died in the quake that has been described as "our darkest day".

To mark its sixth anniversary on Wednesday, the Government could do no better than to issue their parents with a standing invitation to come here whenever they want.

Our building regulations failed them that day and their loss is our responsibility, if we need to justify a special visa for them. But our shared experience should be enough.