Office closure 'dismissive'

Clare Curran
Clare Curran
Labour MP for South Dunedin Clare Curran has slammed the impending closure of the Dunedin immigration office as another example of the Government's ''dismissive attitude'' towards the city.

On Tuesday, the Women Across Cultures immigration advocacy group met with Ms Curran to discuss their concerns about the closure of the immigration office.

The office is to be closed from October 2013 and replaced with a privately run visa application centre.

Ms Curran said the meeting was the first time she had heard about the issue, but she was disturbed about the closure of the office.

''I'm very disturbed to hear that yet again Dunedin is losing a service. It is another example of this Government's dismissive attitude towards Dunedin,'' she said. National had promised not to cut any frontline services but their stewardship had seen cuts to many services, including ''Housing New Zealand turning into an 0800 number in Dunedin'', Ms Curran said.

She was most disturbed by the fact that the closure was being described as beneficial for immigrants when it clearly was not, she said.

For many immigrants English was a second language and they needed to have face-to-face communication with an immigration official in order to make themselves understood when applying for visas, she said. Completing a form electronically would often be confusing for them.

She would be writing to the Minister of Immigration and pushing for Immigration New Zealand to take another look at keeping the office open, she said.

National list MP in Dunedin Michael Woodhouse said while he was sad for the staff whose jobs would be affected, he did not believe there would be any reduction in levels of service for Dunedin's immigrants.

The Dunedin immigration office had been very small for some time and even student visas for international students wanting to study at the University of Otago were no longer dealt with in Dunedin.

''The vast majority [of migrants wanting to come to Dunedin] aren't dealt with in Dunedin. Often applications are made online,'' he said.

''This is an evolution of a continuing trend throughout New Zealand to try to deliver services online.''

In response to a letter from Women Across Cultures about the closure, a letter from Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull's office said ''the mayor is sympathetic to the issues you have raised in your letter and will write to the Minister and Associate Minister of Immigration outlining your concerns''.

When Women Across Cultures contacted the mayor's office a second time, it was told ''the mayor has taken advice, consulted with various parties and feels that there is nothing to be gained by pursuing this issue further at the moment'', but that the mayor would ''be kept informed on this matter''.

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