Thursday, 25 June 2009

NOT PJ: If you’re hapu and you know it

This week Bernard Darnton examines the cheques and balances in the immigration industry.
While the pace of nationalisation has slowed, it doesn’t look as if anything will get sold any time soon. The previous government may have believed in state ownership of the means of production (if by some fantastic leap of imagination you can call the railways productive) but it’s not clear what the current government believes in.

If you want to see any privatisation in a hurry you’re going to have to do it yourself. That’s the path taken by Gerard Otimi, tracked down by a self-congratulatory TV news crew selling fake visas to overstayers. While the real immigration service is beset by long queues and incompetent staff, Otimi’s rubber-stamp operation was quick and efficient. $500 bought you a passport stamp and the dubious protection of Otimi’s hapu, no questions asked. No doubt one of the missing articles of the Treaty of Waitangi would make it all clear.

Otimi has been asked to surrender his passport pending his court hearing but that’s nothing that the laser printer out the back can’t fix.

Otimi’s real crime doesn’t appear to be defrauding gullible overstayers but of giving immigration advice without a licence. Breaching the Immigration Advisors Licensing Act carries a $100,000 fine and seven-year jail term whereas boring old obtaining-pecuniary-advantage-by-deception only gets you three months. It’s hardly worth fitting out the shipping container.

It’s odd that a real crime should carry such a light penalty and yet explaining to people how the government works should be so severely punished, don’t you think?

Let’s not pretend that this man is some kind of hero or even that he was providing any sort of service. He is a con man. But that so many people are so willing to give him so much money tells you that something is wrong. Immigration New Zealand, particularly the Pacific Division, is about as useful as a concrete parachute.

Taito Philip Field, as immigration minister, knew that there was money to be made helping people to jump the queue.

In Samoa a few years ago I was talking to a woman in a small fishing village who, hearing I was from New Zealand, excitedly told me about her daughter. This daughter was lauded as the most successful member of the family because she had made it to New Zealand. Where did she live? Otara, I was enthusiastically informed. I tried to stifle my horror.

To be honest, my knowledge of South Auckland is limited to one time I missed a flight and had to find a hotel in Mangere. I can’t say that my occasional glimpse from the hotel restaurant, with its silver-ish-ware and white linen, into the public bar, full of crates and pokie machines, made me want to live there. But lots of people do.

To people who’ve lived with the vagaries of Samoa’s economy, Otara is a land of fabled opulence – their Xanadu – and they want to feed on honey-dew and drink the milk of paradise. Or at least get a half-decent job and a warm garage.

Taito Philip Field and Gerard Otimi have shown us that the current system simply provides a niche for corruption and fraud. We should take the hint. The government should disband Immigration New Zealand entirely and adopt a scheme similar to Otimi’s. Maybe without the $500 fee and the hapu-adoption nonsense – just the passport stamp that says “Welcome to New Zealand.”

* * Read Bernard Darnton’s NOT PJ column every Thursday here at NOT PC * *


  1. Should have just charged him with dishonestly using a document, 7 years max jail term.

  2. Should have given him an Order of Merit for so clearly demonstrating that there is no legitimate difference between his arbitrary interpretation of the "Treaty" and those of his fellows operating with and through WLG.


  3. Bernard, I live in Otara, and you're most welcome to come and see for yourself that, compared to Christchurch, it is indeed Xanadu.


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