Immigration NZ has admitted it has no idea how many of the special Covid-19 "one-off" residency visas could be granted, with the latest figures showing 60,000 more people than initially estimated could be approved.
Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi last year launched the 2021 Resident Visa - a one-off pathway to residency for migrants affected by the pandemic.
At the time it was estimated there would be 110,000 applications and 165,000 people would become residents through the scheme, in what was labelled the biggest change to immigration in recent history.
Yet just over halfway into the application process being open, 86,000 applications covering close to 170,000 people have come in - already more than estimated. Applications opened in December and finish at the end of July.
So far nearly 30,000 people have been approved as residents under the scheme. Immigration NZ says it expects most applications to be processed within 12 months.
At the Education and Workforce Committee, National Party immigration spokeswoman Erica Stanford asked how the 1.5 ratio of people to applications had been determined in the estimates.
In reality, the ratio was working out closer to 2. She estimated as many as 60,000 extra migrants could arrive here than what was approved by Cabinet.
Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment - which covers immigration - general manager Ruth Isaac said those estimates were based on previous experiences, and were "always estimates".
Isaac said the 165,000-person estimate did not include applications from offshore, nor border, nor critical workers.
She said they would be keeping a "close eye" on the numbers but did not know how many could end up being approved. They had no revised estimates, she said.
Stanford questioned why such intense scrutiny had been applied to other visa applications, including those of critical workers such as doctors during the pandemic.
"Why [did that happen] if you are not really bothered by the numbers?"
Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said the issue with the estimates was that they were based on applicants expected onshore, and they did not have information for those applying from offshore.
"It's a little bit of a wait and see what comes through," he said.
They did expect there to be more people arriving than estimated.
While extra numbers "could pose difficulties" in terms of infrastructure and resources, Faafoi said overall it would ensure "over time citizenship for a hell of a lot of families who had uncertainty" and certainty for employers.
Immigration NZ staff were also questioned over the response to the situations in Afghanistan and Ukraine, and stalled refugee resettlement programme.
Deputy Secretary Immigration NZ Alison McDonald said New Zealand would again not meet the full 1500 quota this year because of impacts from the pandemic.
New Zealand had been resettling refugees as it could and in line with expectations from the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, she said.
But there had been many challenges, including at one point the biggest Covid-19 bubble in Auckland being at the Auckland Refugee Resettlement Centre, she said.
MBIE was going through a new tender process to manage resettlement services, and they were looking to work closer with communities and mana whenua in settlement communities, she said. The successful tenders are expected to be announced in May.
Since July 2019, just over 1500 quota refugees have arrived, out of 4500 spaces.
Last year just 263 arrived. Additionally spaces for 300 family members a year have not been filled, with just 164 arriving over the past nearly three years from 900 spaces.