A resthome worker has been ordered to leave the country, but she is exactly the sort of immigrant New Zealand needs to keep, Far North mayor John Carter says.
Julie Garcia has been working at Kaitaia's Switzer Care home for 10 years, but Immigration NZ refused to renew her working visa last Friday and gave her two days to get out of the country.
Mrs Garcia and her husband, who are from the Philippines, have not left but are afraid they will be deported.
Immigration officials told the trust that runs the care home it had not advertised widely enough for a New Zealand worker who could do Mrs Garcia's job.
Mr Carter said there was something wrong when a person of Mrs Garcia's calibre was being told to leave.
"She and her husband have been wonderful citizens," he said.
"They brought their children up here till they were 21 and had to go back to the Philippines, and the unfortunate thing is that she is very close to becoming sufficiently qualified to apply for residence here."
Switzer manager Jackie Simkins said Mrs Garcia was an exemplary worker and the trust had invested in training her to a Level 4 qualification so she could work in its dementia and hospital units.
"We've got one ministry in the New Zealand immigration department saying that her skills and training are irrelevant, because you could train a New Zealander to do that - any Joe Bloggs off the street," she said.
"Which we can of course, but it'll take us a few years, and then we've got the Ministry of Health saying 'well, when we come to audit you we're going to want to see the piece of paper [the qualification] that you have for the people doing the work'."
"She has just achieved that and ironically, once she gets her certificate she will be on the skilled list and eligible to apply for residency," Mrs Simkins said.
It was understandable that Immigration NZ wanted to see New Zealanders offered jobs but Mrs Garcia was not easily replaceable, she said.
"They say employ someone off the street who has no qualifications, train them, and send Julie Garcia - who has all the qualifications we require - send her home.
"Just throw away 10 years of commitment, work effort and our funding of her training to bring her up to this level."
It was rare these days for an aged-care health assistant to stay in the job 10 years, Mrs Simkins said, and recruitment had become harder since the trust had introduced pre-job drug-testing late last year.
"We introduced that after an incident... in which a staff member turned up under the influence," she said. "But since we did that that the number of applicants we've had applying for jobs is significantly reduced. And it is a problem."
Mrs Simkins said the Switzer home was helping Mrs Garcia appeal to the Minister of Immigration.
Mr Carter was backing the appeal, and said he had been in contact with the minister's office and was hopeful he would allow Mrs Garcia to stay
"We would welcome her as a Kiwi," he said.
"She's going to be a real asset to us and quite honestly a good taxpayer, a good citizen. We need her."