'Heartbreaking' - Essential worker's family denied travel exemption to NZ desperate to be reunited

New Zealand's Covid-19 immigration strategy is in the spotlight as a family of an essential worker has not been allowed to unite for over a year.

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The South African architect is currently separated from his family while he works in New Zealand. Source: 1 NEWS

Gray Todd is a South African architect working on Auckland residential projects to help fix New Zealand's housing crisis.

Wife, Natalie Sanders-Todd and daughter Ella have been stuck in South Africa - separated for 403 days.

They are just one of many families split due to the Government's Covid immigration strategy.

Todd is in the country on an Essential Skills Work Visa to fill gaps in the construction sector. He was already in the country when the border shut, his wife and daughter were in South Africa getting ready to move.

The family's plight has become more difficult, as four-year-old Ella has been diagnosed with depression.

"To be away from a parent like this, it's almost like the parent has died," Todd says.

Sanders-Todd calls the situation "heartbreaking".

"It's really hard doing it single-handedly and not having the security or support and knowing that Gray is without Ella - watching that dynamic is completely heartbreaking," she says.

Despite there being room available in Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ), the family's applications for a travel exemption have been denied.

An MIQ spokesperson told 1 NEWS that from late January to present, a total of 32,000 rooms have been released for the months of April through to July 2021.

As of 16 April, 1960 rooms in MIQ are available throughout the same period, spread across all months.

"We don't mind paying, we don't mind waiting for our spot in MIQ. We are very happy to go through that - all we are asking is to be treated fairly," Todd says.

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi says it's hard to tell when the issue can be resolved due to spikes in Covid infections overseas but says the Government is working on it.

Todd's boss is frustrated by the lack of action. 

"To me it's really frustrating when we have a need for skilled and people who are deemed essential workers being told we want you, in Gray's situation, his family is not allowed to be beside him while he is contributing to our economy and helping us solve our problems," says Mark McLeay of Creative Arch.