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Government Playing Football With People's Lives


Government Playing Football With People's Lives

The government is once more playing football with the lives of thousands of would-be New Zealanders, according to the New Zealand Association for Migration & Investment (NZAMI).

The Association describes itself as deeply disappointed by Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel's announcement yesterday that the government is to appeal a High Court decision against retrospective application of some of the new immigration rules introduced on 20 November 2002.

In a judgement delivered last month, the High Court held that temporary Job Search Visas (JSVs) were an integral part of applications for residence and that both JSV and residence applications should be decided on the rules in place when residence applications were lodged.

The November rules changes had stipulated that JSVs could only be granted to applicants with skills covered by the Occupational Shortages List. The NZAMI filed proceedings in the High Court last December against the new provision being applied retrospectively where applications had already been lodged but were still being processed.

"Literally thousands of applications were suddenly placed in jeopardy by the retrospective operation of this new rule. The Occupational Shortages List is subject to frequent alteration. A consequence was that applicants suddenly had no way of knowing whether their particular skills would still be deemed appropriate when their applications came to be decided," explains the NZAMI's Chairman, Bill Milnes.

"It's deeply disappointing to learn that the government is now seeking to appeal the High Court's decision. This means that our government is again playing football with the lives of would-be New Zealanders. It was bad enough that people who had applied in good faith under the old rules suddenly found last November that the rules had been altered. It's even worse that further uncertainty and anxiety have been injected into the mixture by the government's unwillingness to accept the verdict of the court.

"Some of the people affected have spent more than two years with their lives on-hold as they go through the complex and time-consuming process of applying for residence. Just like the rest of us, they crave a degree of hope and certainty but these have now been snatched away for a second time in a matter of months as a result of the government's decision to contest the High Court's ruling," he says.

Mr Milnes adds that it is not just potential immigrants who are harmed by frequent and unheralded changes in immigration rules. New Zealand's economy also stands to suffer from the absence of considered and consistent immigration policies and from the impression overseas that our government cannot be relied on to honour its undertakings.

"General legal principles tend to loom large in Court of Appeal decisions. It would be interesting to see what the Court of Appeal makes of the blatantly retrospective nature of the November rules changes. Retrospective rule-making is just not the way we do things in New Zealand. It is inherently unfair and unjust and would wreak havoc with all of our lives if it became the norm and was extended to other policy areas such as taxation, education or health," he says.

The New Zealand Association for Migration and Investment represents more than 200 members, 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.

Mr Milnes says that NZAMI members feel let down by yesterday's announcement of an appeal as they have been seeking a more constructive relationship with the New Zealand Immigration Service and with the Minister of Immigration following last month's High Court decision.


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