Dunedin's Immigration New Zealand office will close, it
was confirmed yesterday.
In a New Zealand first, a visa application centre, outsourced
to a third-party provider, is planned for
Dunedin, an INZ spokeswoman said. The remainder of the
office's work would be transferred to Christchurch.
Closure was scheduled for October at the earliest, with no
firm date yet.
Six jobs will go in the branch closure. However, INZ was
trying to redeploy workers to other parts of the Ministry of
Business, Innovation, and Employment. It was unclear what
sort of provider would seek the visa application centre
contract, how many staff it would hire and whether the
provider could be required to take on any of the workers.
The visa application centre would do front-line immigration
work. It would not provide immigration advice, or have
influence on the outcome of visa applications, which could
only be decided by an INZ officer, the department said.
The visa application centres were used by INZ overseas, and
were likely to appear in more New Zealand centres. Seven
other New Zealand offices were under review.
Public Service Association national secretary Brenda Pilott
said the Dunedin staff did not understand why their jobs were
being transferred and outsourced. The Dunedin office was
high-performing and low-cost, she said.
The centralisation of the public sector was hurting Dunedin,
which did not have an abundance of other jobs, Mrs Pilott
According to union figures, 106 public sector jobs were lost
in Otago last year, the bulk of which were likely to be from
Otago and Southland seemed to be hit harder than other
regions by the large-scale centralisation under way.
In the past four years, Otago had lost 154 public sector
jobs, compared with 158.5 in Canterbury, which had a bigger
population. Southland lost 92 jobs in the same period.
Mrs Pilott said Dunedin and Invercargill had cheaper
overheads than larger centres, so it made little sense to
remove what was often straightforward processing work.
The union had ''real concerns'' about the potential entry of
private providers into the sensitive role of processing
visas. She warned more public sector job losses were likely
in Otago this year, when district court cuts take effect,
amid other changes and cuts.
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said he thought one of the lessons of
the Canterbury earthquakes had been the undesirability of
centralising services. Aside from making its displeasure
known, there was little the Dunedin City Council could do
about centralisation, which presumably saved money, he said.
In a prepared statement, INZ said closing the Dunedin branch
was part of implementing a new service model which included
centralised processing, fewer branches, simplified processes,
increased online access, and outsourcing.
''Immigration services are currently delivered through a
large global network which is expensive to manage and
operate, and slow to respond to variations in application
volumes, and to the changing needs of New Zealand employers
and tourism and education providers,'' the statement said.