Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is defending the decision to grant residency to a recidivist drunk driver who is in danger of being tortured if deported.

But National leader Simon Bridges says it's another wrong decision by Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, and has demanded to know more information such as whether the person, who has not been identified, is collecting a benefit or has been to jail.

He called Lees-Galloway a "repeat offender" following the minister's initial decision to grant residency to convicted Czech drug-smuggler Karel Sroubek - a decision he later reversed.

But Lees-Galloway said that the previous National Government granted the person a temporary work visa in 2013, which was granted again in 2016.


"National's Immigration Minister, Michael Woodhouse gave the person a three year temporary visa in 2013 noting that subsequent temporary work visas would be approved as required, and so Immigration New Zealand gave the person another in 2016."

"They were on temporary work visas when I looked at the case and made a pragmatic decision to give them residency given that we can't deport this person."

This person has had six drink-driving convictions and two convictions for driving without a licence, but no convictions since becoming a protected person.

Lees-Galloway granted the person residency following the Immigration Protection Tribunal decision to grant the person status as a protected person.

Ardern defended Lees-Galloway this morning, saying the Government's hands were tied by the UN International Convention against Torture.

"No Government of any stripe really has the ability to decide that person can be removed from New Zealand, nor have they.

"If someone is a protected person, they cannot be deported from New Zealand ... Both the National Government and the Labour Government have to apply the international conventions when it comes to rules around torture."

She said the minister was not obliged to grant residency in such cases, but the person essentially had residency status.


"But essentially they have the same thing. They can't leave and there is no ability to have them deported."

She did not know if the person had any driving restrictions, and did not want to comment on anything that could divulge the person's identity, including in which country they faced torture, whether they were a refugee, or how they came to New Zealand.

Bridges said that wasn't good enough, and New Zealanders deserved to know if the person had been to prison or was on a benefit.

"What beggars belief is the law is very clear here. The minister has a discretion, yet someone who on New Zealand roads has drunk-drived at least six times [has] been given residency."

National Party leader Simon Bridges says the Government has botched up another immigration case and should not have granted a recidivist drunk driver NZ residency. Photo / Dean Purcell.
National Party leader Simon Bridges says the Government has botched up another immigration case and should not have granted a recidivist drunk driver NZ residency. Photo / Dean Purcell.

Bridges was not saying that the minister could deport a protected person.

"What he absolutely had a discretion on was whether he granted residency. Iain Lees-Galloway gave this man who has endangered New Zealand lives at least six times the keys to the kingdom in New Zealand."

Asked what he would have done, Bridges said: "I wouldn't give him residency. He would sit there in limbo."

He said granting the person temporary residency may have been an option, but he didn't know the details of the case.

He referred to the case of a man known as William Nduku, who admitted to rape and murder in his country of Zimbabwe and came to New Zealand on a false passport in 2015.

Nduku told New Zealand authorities he would be tortured if deported to Zimbabwe and claimed status as a protected person, but then-Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse refused to grant Nduku a work visa, and he left the country to an unknown destination.

Bridges said he did not know whether National had ever dealt with the person with drink-driving convictions, but he said that less of less important because "I wasn't leader of the National Party then".

Lees-Galloway told reporters this morning that the Immigration Act precluded anyone from revealing the identity of a protected person.

He said he was confident that sending this person back to their country of origin would put them at risk of torture.

He had read the person's whole immigration file, something he did not do and was heavily criticised for over the Karel Sroubek case.

National's Justice spokesman Mark Mitchell said Lees-Galloway should resign.

"This is another example of the minister, in my view with the information we have right now, making a very poor decision.

"We have got a guy who has come to New Zealand and he is a [repeat] drunk driver."