New minister says New Zealand immigration policies working well

After an unexpected reshuffle of the New Zealand government's cabinet in January, the new immigration minister, Michael Woodhouse, gave a speech on 14th February to the New Zealand Association of Migration and Investment in Christchurch.

Mr Woodhouse replaced Nathan Guy who has become the Minister for Primary Industries, in the reshuffle. Mr Woodhouse had no new initiatives to report but gave an account of recent initiatives taken by Immigration New Zealand, his governmental department. He said it was fitting that he was speaking in Christchurch, in the province of Canterbury, a city that was devastated by an earthquake in 2011, because he said 'the Canterbury rebuild will be a major focus for me'.

Processing times down

Mr Woodhouse said that Immigration New Zealand was working well. The amount of time it takes to get a work visa or a visitor visa has fallen by a half and the wait for a student visa has fallen by two thirds in a year. The quality of decision making had also gone up and customer satisfaction was standing at 87% in 2012 compared to 75% in 2011 and 70% in 2009. He said that he expected the Immigration Global Management System (IGMS) and the Global Service Delivery Model (GSDM) to improve matters yet further.

Mr Guy announced the IGMS last year. It will see visa applications put online and allow those applying for New Zealand visas to manage their visa application accounts remotely. Mr Woodhouse said that, as the systems came online 'customers will start to notice the difference.' The first parts of the project should come online in 2013 with the system expected to be fully operational by 2015.

He said that New Zealand was revamping its visa application systems with the GSDM programme. The government is going into partnership with a private sector partner to establish 'hubs' for visa processing creating a 'smarter, leaner, more efficient service'.

Canterbury visas will be 'rushed through'

Mr Woodhouse said that he was not going to change the 'New Zealanders first' jobs policy of successive governments. He said that visa applications for international applicants for jobs which were on the Canterbury Skills Shortage List would be rushed through. But, he said he would ensure that no job was given to an overseas worker before checks had been made to see if any New Zealanders were available to do the work.

Mr Woodhouse said that he would be taking steps to ensure that those jobs on the Canterbury Skills Shortage List were there for good reasons and that sufficient steps were being taken to train New Zealanders in the trades on the list.

Mr Woodhouse also said that the New Zealand government's decision to allow international students of English studying in Christchurch to work for more hours per week had helped boost student numbers but said that the government would crack down on illegal workers found anywhere in the country. Mr Woodhouse said that New Zealand had attracted NZ$1.3bn of potential international investment since July 2009.

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