Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

SocietySeptember 5, 2023

We found out why Immigration NZ’s hold music is so bad

Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

Immigration New Zealand has uniquely terrible hold music, far beyond the usual Nature’s Best compilation fare. An Official Information Request finally reveals why.

Absolutely nobody asked, but we can now reveal that Immigration New Zealand’s much-hated hold music was written by none other than its own call centre staff.

How do we know this? Well, we definitely didn’t ask for the information.

INZ’s grating call-waiting tracks spawned a significant number of Reddit posts during the Covid-19 border closures. This led some dedicated sleuths to make Official Information Requests, demanding access to the audio tracks and lyrics, presumably to prove to their friends and whānau that they had not hallucinated them while sitting on the phone for hours at a time.

In response to one of those requests, Mike West, INZ’s General Manager for Service Support and Design, revealed, completely unprompted, that two of the three tracks callers heard during the chronically long wait times are original songs composed by call centre staff. We can only assume this is to prevent their employer having to fork out for licensing fees.

During the two years Aotearoa’s border was effectively closed due to the pandemic, thousands of people spent hours on hold to Immigration New Zealand, trying to get information about their visas and when they might be allowed back into the country. Callers complained of waiting for hours, or even whole days trying to reach someone who could help them.

The song they heard that bothered them the most? A little ditty called ‘Come on Over’.

No, it’s not Christina Aguilera. It’s not Shania Twain. It’s the INZ call centre staff. Forget Sausages and Custard. This might just be the greatest (read: worst) earworm this nation has ever produced.

Here are the song’s lyrics, with some notes:

Come on Over

So you’re thinking to make the move

To another place and time

The pasture just seems greener on this side

[We start off with a country twang and hokey lyrics. Have I accidentally called the USA?]


Will you come and take a ride?

We’ll dance all through the night

To the tune of the southern stars up on high

[That’s a big call, but you’ve piqued my interest.]


So you’ve packed your bags to fly

You could be here tonight

To start a brand new chapter in your life

Take a road trip down the line

[The word “tonight” has been autotuned to within an inch of its life. This is not what T-Pain sacrificed his reputation for.]


Let the memories fill your mind

And the Southern Cross keeps dancing through the night

[What memories? You haven’t even arrived yet. And if I get all the way to New Zealand and that constellation isn’t dancing, I’m going to be so mad.]


So come on over, come on over

To the land of the long white cloud and the southern skies

[The longer you’re on hold, the less it seems they actually want you to come on over.]


Where the locals make you smile

Come play and stay a while

[I can holiday and maybe stay? Isn’t that illegal?]


Don’t you worry, take your time, and she’ll be right

[Being told not to worry while left on hold with visa questions is a lot like being told to “calm down”: guaranteed to have the opposite effect. Also, “she’ll be right” is a wildly inappropriate approach to applying for a visa. Please do not try this at home.]

This propagandist earworm somehow manages to over-promise on the country’s greatness while under-delivering on service before the caller has even arrived in the country. A trip, indeed.

The song teases the idea of being allowed into the country while remaining completely non-committal about whether any visas are actually available or where or when you might be able to access them. Having to listen to this song while the border was closed must have felt like psychological torture. “Come on over,” it taunted. But actually, please don’t.

Knowing this song was written by the same people who answer migrants’ hopeful, sometimes desperate, calls, we can’t help but wonder: Is this song intended to welcome people to Aotearoa, or put them off entirely? The more we are forced to listen, the less we can be sure.

At the end of the track, there’s a long electric organ fadeout and then a pause. Is the wait finally over? Is someone about to pick up?

But then, just when you think your number of is up, the drumsticks count us back in: 1, 2, 3, and we’re off again, on our country road trip loop around the southern stars, grass is greener, yeah nah mate, she’ll be riiiiiiight.

Download and listen to ‘Come on Over’, if you dare, here.

Addendum: To be fair to INZ, their call waiting times have significantly lessened since the border reopened. Over the past week, we made three attempts to call INZ to listen to ‘Come on Over’ on our tinny phone loudspeaker, the way it was intended to be heard, but each time they picked up before we could reach that cursed track. They also refused to put us back on hold so we could hear the song.

These annotated lyrics were originally published in NANSEN, a magazine about migration experiences. The new issue has just landed, focusing on Aotearoa’s Muslim community.

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