Immigration New Zealand is a shambles. From letting almost everyone who came knocking into this country to slamming the door on exceptional candidates, presumably to meet pre-election promises to slash the numbers, and so ease pressure on infrastructure, particularly housing in Auckland, it has consistently proved itself incapable of making rational decisions that are in the best interests of would-be immigrants and the country they wish to make their home.

That's not likely to change any time soon, and Northland MP Matt King is unlikely to run out of worthy candidates to fight for. But last week there was cause for celebration when he was finally able to tell Kaitaia couple Juliet and Eric Garcia that they were officially welcome here.

That decision was a very long time, two governments and a number of Ministers and Associate Ministers of Immigration, in the making. It should not have taken so long given Mrs Garcia's credentials, especially the fact that she had done all that was required to entitle her to apply for a resident's permit in 2016, when the previous government moved the goalposts sufficiently to disqualify her.

Quite frankly, she and her husband have been treated shamefully, victims of a system that is clearly in disarray, and which is far less responsive to common sense than it should be.


However, one must strive not to be churlish. Finally the correct decision has been made, and we can now look forward to the day when Mr and Mrs Garcia take their place in the atrium at Te Ahu and swear or affirm their allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of New Zealand, her heirs and successors according to law, and that they will faithfully observe the laws of New Zealand and fulfil their duties as New Zealand citizens.

If the ceremony follows its now familiar pattern in Kaitaia, they will also be invited to display their allegiance to the All Blacks.

At the end of the day the Garcias' winning of a battle that began in 2010, and was launched in earnest in 2017, is proof that persistence pays off. Not always, but it certainly did in this case.

It is to their great credit that they have maintained their desire to make their permanent home in New Zealand, despite knock-back after knock-back, disappointment after disappointment. Mrs Garcia paid the not insignificant fees required to renew her temporary work visa, complied willingly with every request for evidence that she was fit to live and work here, and has worked hard to improve her skills and qualifications to the point where she has become as close to indispensable as any of us can ever hope to be.

Her husband has not had quite the same place in the public spotlight, but he too has worked every day over the last 12 years or more, and is now well on the way to completing a trade apprenticeship that will make him an even more valuable contributor to his community and country than he has been thus far.

Many tears have been shed. Two years ago the couple feared that if they stepped outside their door they would be arrested and deported. They have been separated from their adult children and a grandchild, and travelled to the Philippines to be with their terminally ill son, not knowing if they would be allowed to return to New Zealand.

They have been through some very troubled times, but have dried their eyes, time and again, and continued to serve their community, and to give every last ounce of possible value possible to their employers. Juliet and Eric Garcia are good people, and deserved to hear the news that Matt King finally gave them on Friday.

They didn't fight their battle alone though. A number of people can share in the credit for the decision made by Associate Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi last week, and Switzer general manager Jackie Simpkins is at the top of the list. She has fought tooth and nail for her highly valued health care assistant and friend Juliet, appealing time and again for the rational, decent decision that she had no doubt would one day be made. If willingness to fight for the rights of staff is a hallmark of a good employer, Mrs Simkins passes that test easily.


Mr King deserves much credit too. He told the writer more than a year ago that promoting Mrs Garcia's case was akin to bashing his head against a wall, and he was not confident of success. He didn't give up though, constantly chipping away at Mr Faafoi, almost to the moment that the minister shed his Immigration portfolio on Friday.

Mr King shared any credit he was due with his electorate agent in Kerikeri, Deirdre Healy, whose praises he sang just as loudly as his predecessor twice removed John Carter did when he employed her for much of his reign as MP for Northland.

Just why this particular decision took so long to make is something of a mystery. The Garcias found themselves blocked long before any political move was made to reduce the torrent of immigrants to a trickle, while Mrs Garcia steadily added to her qualifications, making her application ever more compelling.

In the latter stages, thanks no doubt to NZ First's campaign pledge to turn off the immigration tap, Mr Faafoi, who two years ago refused to intervene in any way, made it increasingly clear that he feared that granting her request for a resident's visa, which he saw as requiring him to make an exception of her, would open a floodgate.

Not to put too fine a point on it, that floodgate needs opening, today.

The Aged Care Association, which also went in to bat for Mrs Garcia, has made no secret of the fact that the aged care sector faces a potentially devastating staffing crisis.

For whatever reason, it is not a sector that New Zealanders are queuing to work in. Around the country, rest homes, which in most cases these days extend the care they provide to hospital level, are struggling to meet the Ministry of Health's non-negotiable standards because they can't attract or retain the staff they need.

Switzer is in that boat. Last week's decision was fantastic news for the Garcias, and for the home, but much more needs to be done to stave off the possibility that more homes, Switzer included, will find themselves unable to provide hospital care, or any level of care at all.

Switzer has long depended n immigrants from the Philippines and a region in southern India for staff, including registered nurses, and seems likely to for the foreseeable future. This situation needs urgent attention from the Ministry of Health and Immigration, but neither seems ready to acknowledge the crisis.

Perhaps they will when more homes close. Perhaps then they will realise the extent to which the aged care sector is easing the pressure on the public health system, and do what they should have done years ago.

Juliet and Eric Garcia won a battle last week, but there is no sign of an end to the war. Immigration and the Ministry of Health really must start comparing notes, as opposed to blindly pursuing some sort of ideology that ignores an increasingly desperate need.

If they don't it is not out of the question that Juliet Garcia, soon to be the holder of a New Zealand resident's permit and hopefully a New Zealand citizen, will be looking for a new job.