24 Nov 2017

Tongan family's 'ticking bomb' finally over

From Checkpoint, 6:25 pm on 24 November 2017

A Tongan family will be granted residency after appealing to the Immigration Minister, because their daughter is so unwell she would likely die if she wasn't allowed to remain in New Zealand.

Moriah, now two, suffers from disorders such as high aspiration risk, severe reduced muscle strength and a hole in her heart.

She was born in Auckland to Tongan parents who have been in New Zealand on work visas for ten and eight years, respectively. She has spent her life in and out of hospital, requiring round-the-clock care. 

Her parents appealed to the Associate Immigration Minister in July after the family was granted visas that expire in March next year. 

Tonga's Ministry of Health and doctors at Starship wrote in support of their residency application, saying Moriah would almost certainly die if she lived in Tonga, as the country did not have the specialist care she needs. 

Moriah's mother Maggie Tu'inukuafe-Lupeitu'u said the last few months have been a "ticking bomb" while they waited for a decision as they were in and out of hospital. 

"Every day was like a threat to me and my family thinking my daughter is not going to be able to live here."

She said her local MP Michael Wood met with Associate Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi on the family's behalf.

They received a letter from Mr Faafoi on Wednesday saying they would be granted residency, as long as Ms Tu'inukuafe-Lupeitu'u, her husband and son meet the health, police and good character requirements. 

"I felt like all the burdens were lifted away, I know my daughter will be able to be safe and will be able to be looked after by all the doctors that she needs, all the neuro team."

Her family was "over the moon" they could stay in New Zealand. 

"We couldn't wait to actually tell our whole church, because the whole church was behind everything as well.

"A lot of people got hold of our petition and actually wanted to support us and raising up our voice to raise awareness in the community. Honestly, I couldn't wait to actually meet everyone who commented and supported, there's about 700, 800 people who signed the petition."

She planned to write a 'thank you' email to each one.

"Because of everyone's support, that's the reason why we're able to be here, with my daughter to have that medical care that she needs."