Immigration New Zealand has apologised to the French au pair put in a Queenstown police cell for the night and then deported because of concerns she might babysit while on holiday with her Australian employers Pip and Paul Johnston and their two young children.

Manon Pache, 18, has forwarded to the Otago Daily Times an email she received on Friday from the department's national manager for border compliance, risk and intelligence services, Senta Jehle.

In it, Ms Jehle said the decision to refuse Ms Pache entry because she intended to work for the family was correct.

But having personally reviewed the case, Ms Jehle said "while the decision was correct and followed Immigration NZ instructions, the consequences for you [of the decision] ... were not proportionate".


"In normal situations when a person is refused entry into New Zealand, their visa-free status is revoked, but in your case I have directed Immigration NZ border operations to lift the suspension of your ability to travel to New Zealand visa-free.

"Please accept my apologies on behalf of Immigration NZ for the stress and inconvenience this has caused you and the Johnston family."

The incident was widely reported in Australia and Britain and Prime Minister John Key described Immigration's treatment of Ms Pache as "heavy-handed".

Ms Pache said she "would have assumed" Immigration had more important issues to deal with "than myself going on holiday with ... no intentions to stay, and not stealing any work [from] people there".

On her arrival at Queenstown Airport in December, Ms Pache told an immigration official she might babysit during the week-long holiday in Wanaka. She was not expecting to be paid but her employers had paid her airfares and accommodation.

She spent a night in a cell before being deported to Australia, and was described by her employer Dr Johnston as having been "terrified".

Ms Pache said the apology had helped her get over the incident. "I hope other nannies will be careful now. I am still angry about this officer, that pushed me out of this beautiful New Zealand because I was being honest. Maybe he likes the liars."

Ms Jehle also told Ms Pache Immigration was reviewing its border operations "settings and responses", including custodial arrangements for people refused entry at airports where it had no accommodation for people waiting for their return flight.

Dr Johnston has laid a complaint with the Independent Police Authority. ODT