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So, some ideas being bandied around our home include my wife moving to NZ with the kids ahead of me, with me following a year later.

Now, she's Swiss/German and the kids are kiwi citizens. I struggle to find any info on the immigration website about the appropriate VISA for this situation. The "partner of a NZ citizen" visa only appears to work if I actually go there with her. 

But surely there must be some class of visa that allows a person to gain residency based on their 2 dependant children being citizens? 
I mean, what if I died? Would those kids be allowed to live in NZ but they'd have to leave their mum behind??

Tried calling Immigration NZ a few times but each time I spend 2h in a queue and then get disconnected. 

Anyone got any info to share?

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You following a year later will be a massive red flag for immigration.  

I suggest you engage a reputable private provider.  The pitfalls are many, the complexities are huge and if you get it wrong it will set you back 12+ months and put you on the 'needs scrutiny' list. 

My sister is currently jumping through the hoops for her partner to obtain residency.  They went with a private provider for the above reasons. I can get and PM you the details if you'd like?

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I believe they're bringing back parental visas but best to come over together and do the partner visa.

Been through the partner thing and they absolutely despise any time spent apart regardless of situation.

It's a pretty invasive process overall.

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