Jared Savage

Jared Savage is the New Zealand Herald's investigations editor.

Immigration NZ staff meet costs taxpayers $191k

Immigration Minister Nathan Guy. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Immigration Minister Nathan Guy. Photo / Mark Mitchell

More than $190,000 of taxpayers' money was spent on an Immigration NZ conference in Auckland for which 20 staff travelled from overseas to attend.

The meeting of the visa division was held over five days in March at the SkyCity Convention Centre where Immigration Minister Nathan Guy outlined his vision for the future and upcoming changes, including a $75 million project to process visas online.

Bangkok, Dubai, Beijing, Hong Kong, London, Moscow, New Delhi , Pretoria and Shanghai are among the overseas branches of Immigration NZ and figures released under the Official Information Act show international flights for 20 staff to attend the conference cost $50,068.

Domestic flights for staff around the country to fly to Auckland cost another $18,584. Immigration NZ spent $43,791 on accommodation at SkyCity Hotel where most of the 62 staff stayed for between one and five days. Some lodged at the hotel for up to nine days.

"The managers who stayed more than five days did so either because of the need to stay longer to get the appropriate international flights to return to their offshore branches, or because they were remaining in New Zealand to conduct business-related activities such as interviewing to fill current vacancies," said Nicola Hogg, general manager of visa services.

Another five staff stayed at the nearby Heritage Hotel and three more at private homes in Auckland.

Immigration NZ spent a further $23,833 on catering, $17,109 on venue and equipment hire, $12,919 on transport and allowances and $1155 on alcohol. Another $23,934 was spent on leadership training development over the five days, which included a departmental training course for overseas managers titled "Effectiveness for Maori".

"To minimise the cost and maximise the effectiveness of meetings, Immigration New Zealand generally holds one annual meeting where offshore-based regional and branch managers return to New Zealand for training, planning and stakeholder engagement," said Ms Hogg.

"This year there was a particular focus on the Vision 2015 which sets out the future vision for Immigration NZ, its working practices and processes and the information and technology required to achieve this vision."

In total, the conference cost taxpayers $191,397. The Immigration meeting happened around the time the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a separate government body with overseas-based staff, was asked to save $25 million each year.

The original proposed overhaul included slashing about 300 jobs, closing at least two embassies and cutting remuneration packages for diplomats.

The Government has since backtracked to halve the number of job to be cut from 304 to 146.

CONFERENCE COSTS

* International flights - $50,068
* Domestic flights - $18,584
* Hotels - $43,791
* Catering - $23,833
* Venue and equipment hire - $17,109
* Alcohol - $1155
* Leadership development and training - $23,934
* Transport and allowances - $12,919
* TOTAL (rounded) - $191,397.

- NZ Herald

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