This is obviously my opinion, and I’m sure you will not agree 100% with it, but hear me out. Make your own decisions and own them. Also note that I am not an immigration agent and cannot give you up to date advice as we immigrated eight years ago. I hope this makes a very hard decision a little bit easier though. I like to try and simplify things as much as possible and hope you will say that I only stated the obvious.
The future of South Africa does not look good my family. The top 1% of South Africans have been doing better than they used to, but 99% are staring down an abyss, not knowing where the bottom is and what that bottom will look like. Who are you? You will know what to do if you are part of the 1% as you became one of the 1% for a reason. If not:
Can you emigrate? You can find out from an accredited agent or take a swing at it yourself. We used an agent and that saved us lots of stress (not all!), but cost us in Rands. Look how much it costs and decide what you can afford to risk. Emigration is a risk and you must do some math to figure out what you can stomach, so do go and talk to an accredited agent who preferably dealt with somebody you know or know of. At least go for a free one-on-one with them to hear them out. You are going to have ups and downs. One day you would want to shout from the rooftops and the next throw in the towel (especially if you need an IELTS score and did not get it the first time). My wife picked me up when needed and pulled me down as needed.
Minimize your risk, but also do not make things too complicated. Dealing with SA banks from the other side of the world was a royal nightmare. Dealing with SA internal affairs was even more so. We closed as many ‘books’ as we could before we came, but left some safety net, eg. Let family look after some stuff. I was lucky in that my job in SA was kept open for me for a month and my wife could start her business again. Come for a ‘look see’ before, if you can. We did not. We got on a plane without any visa in those days (legal it was then), only an agent who had everything ready to send to NZ once things started to fall into place. Those days are truly over, and I shudder now, thinking of the amount of risk we took on. NZ immigration is definitely not out to disappoint people or to create false expectations – their aim is to do the best they can by NZ.
Ask yourself what all are you risking. Will things look up in SA for you in the near future? There will be strain on your relationships, are they solid? Discuss this and make a resolution to not let go no matter how tough things get, because – yes again – it is going to. Going back is always an option, providing mitigation to the risks, but there will be costs (e.g. we had our stuff sent here once we were well settled). See your decision as risk mitigation for those in your family who cannot emigrate.
Those who cannot emigrate because of age or lack of needed skills need to minimize their risk as well. Those in my family who have children need to do what they can to get education for their children which would be needed internationally in future (IT, nursing, etc.).
I see the new NZ government offers, not only negatives for immigrants, but also positives. They will be more selective and so bring the number of immigrants down, but those who are selected will be looked after better as New Zealanders. House prices will not stay out of reach for new arrivals and tenants will have more rights and there will be even better social protection if things go wrong for you after coming here legally.
Immigration is not easy, but opens doors for you and especially for your family. Your standard of living will be similar or a bit better or worse, but others will pick the fruits and have the real options because of it. I say: Sidestep the abyss if you can and focus on making the process a positive experience.