NZ Immigration Service review needs widening

More details today on the review of the Pacific Division of the Workforce group in the Department of Labour. The DoL’s press release assures us that it will be a “wide ranging and comprehensive review”, and that the Secretary of Labour, Christopher Blake, is concerned about serious allegations about processing of Pacific applications and is “determined to deal with them thoroughly.”

To be fair, Blake announced the review on 22 April. The terms of reference are available as a pdf here. They do include “high level examination of integrity and probity issues and their linkages with work flow management.”

However, the announcement was framed in a way that undermines the latest assurances.

The review, it was said, aimed “to identify areas where it could improve and develop the services it provides to Pacific migrants.” While, “The Division has been particularly successful in building the Department’s relations with Pacific people and employers… we know that we can build on the good work that has already been done, and develop our services.”

We also learn only today that allegations had been received of 19 cases of “fraud, theft, unauthorised travel and failure to follow procedures” between 2004 and 2007. These are said to be “historical”, just as the Police Dept tried to pass off some of the relatively recent allegations against its staff as “historical” last year. It all reeks of spin.

National are calling for the review to be widened beyond the Pacific Division, but don’t seem to have much evidence for the need to broaden the scope in that way.

There are broader issues, and these got a good hearing this morning on Radio NZ. Tino Pereira from the Wellington Samoan Advisory Council and Auckland lawyer Olinda Woodroffe provided a Pacific perspective on the concerns that need to be addressed.

There is something of a culture clash in terms of expectations when Pacific people hold official positions. This is not something that a Palangi like me can talk about with authority, but Woodroffe did most eloquently. It does need to be sorted.

Pereira made the point that before the Pacific Division was established, the Immigration Service was regarded by Pacific people as the last bastion of colonialism.

We need a thorough review of the Pacific Division, and one which is wider than that announced last month, though not in the way National envisages. It should take into account the pressures on staff to meet various cultural obligations, and procedures for avoiding corruption allegations in the future.

I am not sure that we have been told who is conducting the review, but it is likely that more thought needs to be given to that, so that these wider issues can be addressed. Most important, we need openness, not spin.

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