Official statistics tell us New Zealand is becoming increasingly diverse.
We have more than 160 ethnic groups and a third of us at the last census were born overseas.
Yet, there still appears to be some preconceived notion of what a “Kiwi” should look like.
This became apparent in a racist, vitriolic public backlash against the family at the centre of my latest immigration story.
Max Kachawala is a New Zealand citizen who has been here since he was eight. Immigration New Zealand said his wife-to-be wouldn’t face any issues travelling here from India. But when she arrived at the airport she was turned away.
His struggle had parallels to an earlier story I’d written about a white South African family who’d had issues with their son’s visa. Here the public response was a lot more sympathetic.
Regardless of age or ethnicity – both families deserved to have their stories told. Both experiences serve to highlight the complex immigration process in this country.
But the negative response to Max’s plight became so unmanageable, it saw us pull the initial post off social media.
Normally I’d write it off as a loud minority who choose to wage war under pseudonyms from behind their screens. Abuse aimed my way I write off as job collateral. If it doesn’t physically hurt me, why does it matter?
But scrolling through the comments aimed at Max and his family, I began to ask if staying quiet was enabling the racism to continue?
The contrasting response to the South African family, raised questions as to why so many felt Max’s family deserved the personal attack?
In a world dominated by Covid there appears to be a growing ambivalence to the plight of many affected by our border restrictions.
At worst it’s downright angry racist attacks often aimed at migrants, and in recent months, even Kiwis who struggle to get back into MIQ. This is reflected across social media commentary, but also across public policy that’s seen Kiwis offshore struggle to get home.
Despite the critics’ accusations Max's family was not asking for special treatment - just clarity - so they could do the right thing by the law. Going public was about educating others to do the same.
As thanks and a welcoming gift to New Zealand, Max’s wife-to-be and his in-laws get a rude awakening to the underbelly of racism that exists in New Zealand.
Max is part of the team of five million who have worked together in the fight against Covid, and it's his right as a New Zealand citizen, to have his partner join him.