A Whangārei teacher is calling on Immigration New Zealand to stop treating her husband "like a criminal" and grant him a medical waiver to end the "inhumane" situation preventing the family being together.

Juanita Craig - who teaches English, English as a second language, and French at Kamo High School, and is also fluent in te reo Māori and tikanga - moved to Whangārei from Canada - where she has lived for about nine years - in June last year with her two children Etienne, 5, and Phoebe, 3.

The plan was for her Canadian husband, Jimmy Lambert, to also move over and work in Whangārei for the 12 to 18 months the family planned on staying.

But Jimmy has multiple sclerosis and the Partner of a New Zealander Work Visa he applied for was denied.


"I think it's inhumane, it's ridiculous because the fact is [the medicine] is going to be paid for. They're treating him like he's a criminal," Craig said.

"He has this idea he can do anything but he's being treated like he has a huge handicap."

Juanita Craig, Kamo High School teacher, is fighting for Immigration NZ to let her Canadian husband into the country. Photo/Michael Cunningham
Juanita Craig, Kamo High School teacher, is fighting for Immigration NZ to let her Canadian husband into the country. Photo/Michael Cunningham

Craig, who is Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hau and Ngātiwai, said Immigration New Zealand had told the family that despite Lambert's medical insurance saying it would cover the cost of the medicine, because he would need to use New Zealand facilities every six weeks to have it administered intravenously, it would be a burden on New Zealand's health system.

The decision to not allow Lambert in the country has been criticised by Multiple Sclerosis New Zealand who said it was both short-sighted and nonsensical.

"INZ needs to take into account the needs of the family and the substantial contribution to New Zealand society that his wife is making," said vice-president Neil Woodham.

Craig said just before she and the children left for New Zealand in June, Immigration New Zealand in the US - where the application was processed - said she could apply for a medical waiver.

Once she arrived in the country she sent a letter to Immigration New Zealand asking for that medical waiver. She received no acknowledgement.

"The reason I went [to New Zealand] before him is because I had a better chance of finding work in the middle of the year than in term four. I left with the kids with the idea this would get sorted."

Jimmy Lambert on a previous trip to New Zealand. Photo/Supplied
Jimmy Lambert on a previous trip to New Zealand. Photo/Supplied

But it's been eight months since Craig has been in country and it hasn't been resolved.

Lambert is unable to even visit the family now, despite having visited New Zealand three times in the past.

When he tried to come over to New Zealand in October for Craig's 40th birthday, and to see Etienne start school, he was stopped in China and sent back to Canada.

"We didn't know he wasn't going to be able to come in to the country. We'd booked hotels, flights and everything," she said.

Craig has contacted two immigration lawyers - one who passed her on to another who she hasn't heard back from; she also went to Whangārei MP Dr Shane Reti who sent an email to Associate Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi; and she has emailed a support letter from Kamo High School principal Jo Hutt to Faafoi as well.

A spokesman for Faafoi said a request for intervention has been received however the Associate Minister does not comment on individual cases.

The Northern Advocate also approached Immigration New Zealand who did not respond by edition time yesterday.

Craig said Lambert - who works fulltime at Canada's housing ministry - had even been granted sabbatical leave for up to two years.

She said the situation had put "severe stress" on her family, and 3-year-old Phoebe had been asking why "the man" won't let her papa into the country.

"This is where I question, and I've said this to the minister, the Treaty of Waitangi.

"Because under article two te reo Māori is a taonga and this is not honouring it because I can contribute to our community, to our schools, to our whānau."

Craig, who also has an honours degree in Māori Studies, said considering there was a teacher shortage it was "preposterous" that she may have to leave the country to be with her husband, if he is not allowed in.

"I think they need to take in the basis they're about to lose a New Zealand qualified teacher and there is a need for New Zealand teachers and Māori teachers, only 5 per cent of the country speak Māori.

"A father is being prevented from seeing his kids. They're severing ties with his kids, and family and that's cruel. What would I like them to do? Grant a medical waiver for him indefinitely so that he can come in and out of the country."