Dunno what they are up to in Nathan Guy’s office.
Nathan’s a splendid bloke, let there be no mistake, although Alf (ahem) modestly maintains he could do a better job as Minister of Immigration.
He cites the example of the good news trumpeted from the Minister’s office yesterday.
It was headed New scheme to encourage Chinese tourism
And – as you can see here – it looks (on the face of it) to be good news.
Immigration Minister Nathan Guy has today announced a new agreement with China Southern Airlines to make it easier for high-value Chinese tourists to visit New Zealand.
“Planned to start from 22 November, Gold and Silver frequent flyer card holders with China Southern Airlines will not have to produce evidence of sufficient funds to support themselves, as long as they can show their flight records over the previous two years.
“This will make the visitor visa process more streamlined. At the same time though, applicants will still require a visa and need to meet health and good character requirements, as well as evidence of onward travel.
“Immigration New Zealand will be carefully monitoring the arrangement and it can be suspended at any time if necessary.
Can’t say fairer than that, eh?
And as Nathan pointed out, China is one of New Zealand’s largest tourist markets.
Around 160,000 visitors came here last year, contributing around $555 million to the economy.
“However they tend to stay for shorter periods of time. The aim of this new arrangement is to encourage more high-value tourists to visit and stay here for longer, producing greater economic benefit for New Zealand.
“This group of travellers are considered to be low-risk as they travel regularly for business or leisure.”
But if it’s such a bloody good deal, how come the Minister let the world hear about it first from Winston Peters, who – headline-grabbing bugger that he be – tried to expose it as something smacking of scandalous?
His statement (see here) came out an hour or so ahead of Nathan’s statement.
It was headed Government Fast Tracks Another Immigration Mess
New Zealand First says it has caught the Government “red handed” with a dodgy new system of fast tracking visas for members of a major Chinese airline’s frequent flier’s club – despite being warned that international criminals belong to these clubs.
Rt Hon Winston Peters raised the issue in Parliament, producing confidential Immigration New Zealand papers that show both the Minister and officials had met China Southern Airlines to discuss the proposal.
“This new plan simply means that visas are rubber stamped for Gold and Silver cardholders of China Southern Airline’s frequent flyer club. All the visa requirements are waived.
“It is interesting to note in the proposal that the most important feature for the airline’s clients is to avoid questions relating to financial backing and employment history.”
For good measure, Peters produced an internal memo from Immigration NZ’s Intelligence, Risk and Integrity Division warning that China represents a ”huge set of risks” and suggesting that officials had not learned anything from a recent scandal over student visas.
“This memo also shows that China Southern Airlines compliance over flight passenger lists for checking has been patchy and but for political tolerance the company would have received significant fines.
“This is clearly an abuse of both New Zealand border controls and the visitor visa system and it is being driven directly from the Minister’s office.
“It is disgraceful for the Minister to confirm in Parliament today that he’s prepared to weaken our border security to simply attract a few more tourists.
“Immigration New Zealand is simply carrying out the will of a Government that allows just about anyone and anything into New Zealand. This alarming situation cannot continue,” says Mr Peters.
If Nathan’s staff had been on their toes, they would have seen this coming.
Peters had broken news of the deal at Question Time less than an hour (see here), snidely referring to secret meetings and secret deals.
Trouble is, because Nathan and his team hadn’t rushed to bray about the good news this deal represents, Alf is left wondering why they didn’t want to share it with the rest of the world.