Auckland's Indian community leaders have called for an investigation into how so-called Hindu witch doctors have been able to work in New Zealand, while condemning local Indian media for allowing such practices to be advertised in their products.
Around 20 people gathered for a community meeting in Mt Roskill, Auckland, this afternoon to tackle the issue of witch doctors targeting the vulnerable in their community.
It comes after fears were raised of so-called 'witch doctors' and 'healers' in south Auckland who have charged thousands of dollars in return for promised financial fortunes and love-life successes that don't eventuate.
Speakers at today's meeting condemned the practice, saying many of the 'astrologers' were targeting vulnerable people.
They called on those in the Hindu community to avoid using the services of so-called priests, witch doctors and astrologers.
They resolved to write to Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse to call on him to listen to their concerns and start an investigation into how the witch doctors were passing immigration checks.
This was "one of our biggest concerns", Indian community leader Pratima Nand, who chaired the meeting, said.
Chandu Singh, past president of the Auckland Indian Association, said the group always advised its members to avoid such practitioners.
Something had to be done to "bring a stop to these people", he said."Immigration has a lot to answer for. How are these people getting into the country? Under what criteria?"
Praveen Singh, from Arya Samaj Prathidhi Sabha, said he would go "one step further" and called on Immigration New Zealand to investigate the people or organisations who help sponsor witch doctors into the country.
Ms Nand agreed: "The people who are sponsoring these people should be made accountable for any unwarranted activities committed by these people who have been sponsored into the country."
Thakur Ranjit Singh condemned local Indian media for printing and airing advertisements for such witch doctors and astrologers.
"They have failed to safe-guard the community," he said, saying the "watch dogs have become the lap dogs".
"They are not meant to publish anything that is false, and many of these ads were mere lies."
The publicity had fuelled the perception that the 'priests' were legitimate, he said.
He called for the local Indian media to develop a code of ethics in order to avoid publishing adverts for 'astrologists'; for the Hindu organisations who sponsor priests from India to come to New Zealand to perform proper background checks; for Hindus moving to New Zealand to "abandon" their belief in such superstitious practices at the border; and for the Indian High Commission to come down hard on anyone carrying out witch doctor activities.
Mr Singh said a Facebook page, which will be set up by the community leaders to gather information on witch doctors from around New Zealand, would be called 'Sadu Busters' - "like Ghostbusters, only Sadu Busters", he told to laughter from the crowd.
The term 'sadu' referred to the mystic environment and appearance the witch doctors create for themselves, to appear ethereal and close to God, he said.
One woman who went to the meeting said in south Auckland, where she lives, people were bombarded with flyers on the street or in their letterboxes advertising such astrology.
"We get heaps of all these bogus ads," she said.
She added: "It's high time that somebody stood up to these types of activities [witch doctor practices]."
At the end of the meeting some in the crowd shouted out that the witch doctors were "actors", and they "give a bad name to the real priests".
Earlier this week Immigration New Zealand said it had identified nine witch doctors following allegations of unethical or extortionate behaviour by black magic practitioners.
Five of the so-called witch doctors had now left New Zealand, while the remaining four, who held visitor visas, appeared to be "in breach of the conditions of their visas" and liable for deportation, INZ said.