A Labour MP is calling for changes to the immigration system after it emerged that it had been six years since all of the spaces in one international humanitarian quota were filled.
More than 22,000 applications were received last year for 1650 places in the Samoan Quota and Pacific Access Category ballots.
But government figures show more than 1400 people have not been able to take up ballot places they won in that time.
Labour's Pacific Island Affairs spokesperson Su'a William Sio said ballot winners had to get a job before they got their visa and that was a big hurdle if they were still in their home country.
"Unless the employer goes to the Pacific looking for workers there is no way for those workers to get a viable job offer unless their relative is the boss or their relative knows the boss," he said.
"People need to come over here to find jobs be able in order to access that Samoan or Pacific quota."
Mr William Sio said the spare places could instead go to Pacific Islanders who were already in New Zealand - both lawfully and overstayers.
"Immigration New Zealand does need to seriously consider enabling overstayers who are well settled in New Zealand, especially for humanitarian and for climate change reasons (especially those from Tuvalu and Kiribati) to fill remaining spaces in the quotas."
The Samoan quota had not been filled since 2009 and the Pacific Access Category quota has been filled only twice in seven years.
Immigration New Zealand area manager Michael Carley said there was a Residual Quota Places Category, but it would only use this policy if the quota had a significant shortfall, and on average the Pacific Access Category did not.
It said it was taking a number of measures to ensure that the Pacific Quotas were filled, including actively working with employers who were interested in offering jobs to people who have been selected in the ballots.
Applications for this year's Samoan Quota and Pacific Access Category are open this month.
The Pacific Access Category Ballot allows up to 250 citizens of Fiji, 250 citizens of Tonga, 75 citizens of Tuvalu, and 75 citizens of Kiribati to be granted residence in New Zealand each year.
The Samoan Quota allows 1100 to settle here.
Last year, RNZ reported that the over-subscribed immigration ballot left Fijian applicants with a less than three percent chance of a place in the draw to come to New Zealand.
Almost 9000 Fijians paid the equivalent of $US50 for only 250 ballot places, which gives them a chance at a residence visa.