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Minister Shooting At The Wrong Target

Minister Shooting At The Wrong Target

New Zealand's immigration consultants have responded coolly to a government proposal to bring them under a joint regulatory authority with their Australian equivalents.

Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel yesterday said she had discussed with her Australian counterpart, Philip Ruddock, expanding his country's regulatory authority to cover New Zealand, in a bid to weed out rogue consultants.

"The minister is shooting at the wrong target in focussing on consultants actually here in New Zealand," says Bill Milnes, Chairman of the New Zealand Association for Migration & Investment.

"The NZAMI already has a stringent self-regulatory system, based on a clear code of ethics. We believe that this has made a major contribution to raising the standards to which most New Zealand immigration consultants now work.

"However, there is undoubtedly a problem overseas where many consultants have no substantial knowledge of or connection with New Zealand and may well be acting in a way which falls well below the standards we would expect of our own members," he says.

Mr Milnes adds that it's already within the power of the New Zealand Immigration Service to restrict the activities of rogue consultants overseas.

"Most applications from such consultants are lodged with the Immigration Service's overseas branches. They can quite simply stop dealing with these consultants or, at the very least, process their applications more cautiously and sceptically. It's difficult to understand why this is not already happening.

"The NZAMI has long urged the Immigration Service to adopt a consultants' accreditation system based on our code of ethics. We believe that this approach could be extended to cover overseas consultants. For our part, we are already training some overseas-based consultants in the standards we expect of them," he says.

Mr Milnes says he cannot exclude the possibility that the minister is seeking to discredit New Zealand immigration consultants to deflect attention from the serious economic consequences of last month's about-face in immigration policy, which abolished the "General Skills" category of immigrants.

"A recent BERL report found that migrants had a positive net fiscal impact on New Zealand of $1.7 billion in the year to June 2002. In addition, new immigrants make a substantial contribution to consumer demand and have provided one of the main engines of growth for the property market and the building industry. They also provide a valuable element in our work force at a time of tightening labour supply.

"The minister says that she's still planning on 45,000 new immigrants per year, which would mean that, in theory, the same number of people will be coming into New Zealand as before the policy shift and that the economic impact will be similar.

"Yet, feedback from our members suggests that far fewer skilled migrants are attracted by the new system which requires them to first visit New Zealand, then obtain a relevant offer of employment, register their interest and then possibly wait months for an invitation to apply to live here. We understand these doubts to be shared by senior staff within the Immigration Service.

The New Zealand Association for Migration & Investment represents nearly 200 members throughout New Zealand, including immigration and investment consultants, banks, business specialists and financial advisers. The association seeks consistent, fair, reliable immigration policies of long-term benefit to New Zealand.

Reporters please note:

The NZAMI is this week holding its 2003 Annual Conference in Auckland at the Ellerslie Conference Centre.

Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel is due to address the conference at 11.40 am tomorrow (Friday 8 August)

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