Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Peters: Restaurants are an 'immigration cover'

NZ First leader Winston Peters weighs in on the immigration debate
NZ First leader Winston Peters weighs in on the immigration debate

NZ First leader Winston Peters claims some Auckland ethnic restaurants are "fronts" for immigration fraud.

"Drive down Sandringham Road and Dominion Road and tell me that all those restaurants are purely for restaurateurs. No. Many are immigration cover.

"People pay serious money to come in, all under the table, all wrong, all a total degradation of this country's standards when it comes to workers, and all under our nose."

He said his "informants" were Indian and Chinese people: "People who are more concerned about the country they've come to than apparently the New Zealand commentariat have been."

Mr Peters alleged some restaurants were charging "phenomenal sums" for job offers to bring people in from overseas. "Look at all the restaurants and tell me how are these viable?

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"They aren't unless some of them have a backup industry - and it's immigration, for which they charge phenomenal sums. These people pay huge money to get in, under the table."

A spokesman for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said the hospitality industry was a target for Immigration NZ.

"Any complaints are assessed and action taken as appropriate. But I have no information about any recent activity in this area of Auckland."

Asked if he had reported any allegations to authorities such as Immigration NZ, he said he had but was told they could not tell him any more because of "privacy."

He said there was little point. "Why would you ask the most incompetent department in the country to look into it?"

Mr Peters' claims follow Labour leader Andrew Little's call for the flow of immigrants to be slowed to lessen the pressure on Auckland.

Mr Little used semi-skilled ethnic restaurant workers as an example where New Zealanders could be used.

He backpeddled on that example yesterday, saying it was put to him by a media outlet. "I do care about ethnic chefs, they are very important to us as a nation. I wouldn't touch ethnic chefs as a policy item at all."

He believed special provisions for chefs such as those from China were "a good thing." "It's good for all of us."

However, he said high net migration was putting too much pressure on the country.

Mr Peters said Mr Little was now trying to "dogwhistle" on the issue but was "compromised by the past" because previous Labour government had created an open system.

"They were celebrating diversity and everything that didn't matter to the country when it comes to ordinary people's lives. And they're still celebrating it."

- NZ Herald

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