7 Mar 2009

Pacific leaders wary of Pacific division closure

8:03 am on 7 March 2009

Some Pacific community leaders say if the Immigration Service's Pacific divison is abolished following a highly critical report their needs will not be met.

An independent review by Ernst and Young found the division was poorly led and that it developed a fiefdom mentality. However, the report advocated retaining the division.

Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman has rejected that advice, telling the Department of Labour to scrap the division and move its functions to the Immigration Service.

Sailauama Cheryl Talamaivao from the Waitakere Pacific Board says while the division has had problems, just like any Government department, it has also made positive changes.

Hamish Crooks from the Cook Islands community says the report not only shows many flaws but identifies positive attributes, such as staff being passionate about their jobs.

Samoan lawyer Olinda Woodroffe says it is possible the division had to meet undisclosed agendas, and ethnicity has nothing to do with its performance.

Review

The review followed the resignation of controversial Immigration Service boss Mary Ann Thompson.

Although it found the division was poorly led it also concluded the division did not have the resources to do its job and hinted that the wider Immigration Service also lacks the money to do its job properly.

The review recommended that the division should be retained. However, if it is absorbed by the Immigration Service, the Department of Labour should ensure that too is working effectively and efficiently.

Dr Coleman says mismanagement has been a big part of the problem and that is what needs correcting first.

He says the cupboard is bare and the Pacific division will not be getting any more money.