Migrant workers split from their families overseas are livid at the border opening for foreign workers for the stage production of The Lion King.
And a Government Minister is being accused of a lack of respect after he growled like a lion during Question Time today while his colleague was being grilled about the plight of split migrant families.
This morning it was revealed that 126 foreign workers for The Lion King had been granted border exceptions for the show, which is scheduled to open at Auckland's Spark Arena in June.
It has upset data manager and South African Desmond Naidoo, who lives in Auckland, and who has been waiting for 15 months for his wife Cindy and two children to be granted entry to New Zealand.
"The Lion King exceptions make me feel unwanted, like I'm being used, that what I'm doing here - I'm about to launch a product on the international market - doesn't seem important to the New Zealand Government," he said.
"The whole thing about kindness and inclusion - I don't feel part of that."
Steven Berrington, a hospital technician from South Africa, is waiting for his wife and daughter to be able to join him and his son in Tauranga.
"It makes us crazy, mad and upset," he said of The Lion King exceptions.
"They should be looking at long-term people who want to be Kiwis, who want to pay tax and be here for 20, 30 years, not those who spend a quick buck and then leave."
Migrant workers granted a border exception to come to New Zealand can bring family members with them under the Covid border rules put in place in June last year.
But those who were here before the borders closed cannot - even if family members overseas had previously been granted entry before the pandemic hit.
Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi conceded that this was an "anomaly", and the Government hoped to have it resolved "soon".
There were "many moving parts" to the issue, he said, including available MIQ spaces and where to draw the line if the doors are opened wider than they currently are.
But Berrington said 'soon' "could be two years".
His wife of 18 years, Wendy, had given up her job and sold her house in South Africa, and was about to get on a flight to New Zealand last year when the borders were closed.
"It's very hard. To not see my wife for two years and for my son not to see his mum, it's taking its toll.
"We understand and agree that New Zealand has to be safe, but if the Government could just give us a timeline ... we can't go back because we sold everything."
National Party immigration spokeswoman Erica Stanford said a nurse had left New Zealand to reunite with her family overseas, and then applied for a border exception as a critical worker under the new rules so she could bring her family with her.
Licenced immigration advisor and advocate Katy Armstrong said the rules were a joke.
"It's just so ridiculous. They can't tick the box while they're here, but they can if they leave and then apply to come back."
She said the thousands of foreigners - from the Wiggles to sports teams to comedians - allowed into New Zealand in recent months were "insult after insult" to split migrant families.
Armstrong added that she was "flabbergasted" when she watched parliamentary Question Time today, when Minister Peeni Henare growled like a lion while Stanford was questioning Faafoi about The Lion King exceptions.
"It just shows a total disrespect. It's a total kick in the teeth for these families who haven't seen their children," Armstrong said.
National MP Chris Bishop added on Twitter: "I'm just trying to imagine the reaction if a male National MP said 'reow, reow' to a female Labour Party MP."
A spokeswoman for Henare said the minister had no comment.
Faafoi defended The Lion King workers, saying bars and restaurants were desperate for the economic boost that the production will bring.
Acting PM Grant Robertson said the Government had prioritised returning Kiwis, as well as those who played "significant" roles in the economy, and those who contributed to cultural and sporting events that Kiwis enjoy.