Most read story: Over 10,000 overstayers in NZ, Immigration not actively looking for most

Note: This story was first published Sunday, March 25

mmigration NZ is not actively looking for most of the overstayers and those deported cost taxpayers a fortune. Source: 1 NEWS

The Government is spending a startling amount of money to get rid of overstayers in New Zealand, but few people are being deported and very little of that money is being recovered.

1 NEWS has revealed taxpayers spent $1.7 million last year on airfares and escorts to deport overstayers - more than in any of the last five years.

Overstayers must repay those costs to be allowed to reenter, but less than 10 per cent of that $1.7m was recovered last year.

Figures obtained by 1 NEWS also show there are more than 10,000 foreigners in the country unlawfully.

But Immigration New Zealand admits it's not actively looking for most them.

Eleven-thousand people landed, and never left again, putting them in a pool of foreigners now living here with no valid visa.

And the 82 Immigration staff dedicated to investigating overstayers are not actively looking for most of them.

"Part of the reason why we can't find them is we don't have up-to-date knowledge as to where they are and what they are doing. And there is ample work coming from the prison system and ample work in the ones that we do identify to keep us busy. Could we do more? Perhaps," said Peter Devoy of Immigration New Zealand.

The ones that are found and then deported, cost a fortune. Over the past five years, $7.46 million has been spent in flights and escorts to get them home. 

"The cost of the deportation is registered as a debt against the person. So if the person wants to come back to New Zealand then that debt has to be satisfied before they can do so," Mr Devoy said.

And some do simply repay their debt and return to New Zealand.

These people are deep underground - Immigration lawyer Richard Small

A case three months ago saw an overstayer sent back to Zambia. The cost was $47,542 and more than $43,000 of that was for escorts.

Other cases released to 1 NEWS under the Official Information Act show similar spending.

"The airlines that we do work with often have their own security and their own systems in place around these types of people and the movement of them," Mr Devoy said.

"So we're very much having to work with them as opposed to dictate to them." 

The department admits it often waits for information to come in before it acts, but says that is set to change.

From June, Immigration NZ and Police will share data, allowing police to tell in real time the immigration status of people they're dealing with on the beat.

Almost half of all overstayers here are from the Pacific Islands, followed by China and India.

Immigration lawyer Richard Small says there's no real research into the reasons that people have overstayed, "but these people are deep underground". 

And Mr Small says sometimes the wrong people are targeted to get the stats down.

"There are people that are a risk, there are people that commit crimes. And then there're others that their only crime really is being here and supporting terminally ill family members. I don't think that that's a good use of money."  

Immigration NZ is now researching what harm is being caused by overstayers and the financial cost to our communities. 

Rental car users urged to read fine print after driver forks out $64 for Northern Gateway toll

Rental car users are being warned to read the fine print after one Wellington man was stung by two administration charges for an unpaid toll road.

John Byrne ended up paying $64.40 for using the Northern Gateway toll - a road that normally costs just $4.60 for a return trip.

That's because he didn't realise that his rental car company - Go Rentals - charges an administration fee of $25 each time it pays for a toll on behalf of its customers.

"I believed that it would come back to the rental company and they would just debit my Visa account for it," he said.

John agrees he's responsible for the fee - after all, he signed the paperwork (and he's already paid the fee as well) but reckons Go Rentals should have warned him of the charge, because he had a discussion with the staff member about using that specific toll road when he collected the car.

"They said I'd probably go through a toll gate somewhere up there near Warkworth. But there was no discussion about a $25 administration fee per toll," John said.

All the major rental car companies charge administration fees for paying tolls, and Go Rentals charge is one of the lowest. The company says its charge is based on about an hour's worth of staff time to pay the toll, and then let the customer know about it.

"Unfortunately it's a paper-based system, so it starts with collecting the mail, transferring liability. So there's a bunch of correspondence that we need to go through and a processing at our end to handle the situation," said James Dalglish of Go Rentals.

None of the other companies responded to Fair Go's request for comment about their fees except Thrifty, which says it tries to bundle return trips into a single admin fee of $25, to keep costs down.

Fair Go found one company - Jucy Rentals - charging $60 per toll notice, meaning $120 in charges for a return trip - plus, of course, the cost of the actual toll.

If a car rental company doesn't have an account for the car involved, that means NZTA also charges its own administration fee to send the notice out, incurring a toll of $7.20 - all of which is passed on to the customer.

"If the driver forgets or doesn't pay that's a problem that we have to sort out," James Dalglish said.

He says all customers are provided with the terms and conditions when they make their bookings - but acknowledged that meant customers had to rely on their memory at the time of pick up to remember all the clauses and applicable fees. 

"[The] reality is there's a possibility the customer might not read those, and that's their choice," he said.

But Go Rentals says it's now looking at how staff can better inform customers about their fees, off the back of John Byrne's feedback.

Anyone who uses a toll road is able to pay the minimum charge within five days, by going online and entering their licence plate number. 

Traffic heading to Northern Gateway Source: 1 NEWS


Exclusive: Questions raised about job given to Plunket CEO Amanda Malu's daughter

Plunket has faced a storm of protest from parents over a controversial restructure that transferred money and assets out of small communities and into a central national fund.

It's also under fire for paying large salaries to head office staff.

Now 1 NEWS can reveal new questions about a job given to chief executive Amanda Malu's daughter.

Mameroa Munn has been working for the charity since 2015 in marketing and communications.  Her LinkedIn profile says she graduated from the University of Auckland that year with a Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies and Psychology.

Last year Plunket advertised for a population health advisor – saying the ideal candidate: "will need a current NZ nursing practicing certificate or post graduate qualification in primary health care speciality nursing...or a professional recognition pathway for nurses ...or a social sciences, public policy degree or similar."

Ms Munn got the job in January. But Plunket won't say if she has got the relevant qualifications.

In a statement, Plunket's Chief People and Transformation Officer Liz Barton said:  "As a responsible employer we do not discuss individual employment matters. We do want to say that the employment process for this staff member followed best practice rigorously.  Plunket's Chief Executive had no role, at any stage, in the employment process."

Plunket wouldn't answer further questions about the employment process or make further comment.

Blair Scotland of Dundas Street employment lawyers says this kind of situation is uncommon.

Speaking generally, he said: "In terms of the public sector organisations it is very important that they advertise what the role is and keep to the parameters of what role is - for a private organisation less of an issue."

He added:  "Ultimately if the lower level decision makers are beholden to that person for their pay increases or career prospects references if they were to leave - there is always going to be an implicit power relationship going on there - it is always best practice to removes themselves from the decision making."

Plunket receives 77 per cent of its funding from the taxpayer. Minister of Health David Clark would only say it's an employment issue for Plunket.

Mr Scotland said: "If you are an organisation that is reliant on both government contracts and both donations from the public transparency is key."

Plunket has faced a storm of protest over a controversial restructure that transferred money and assets out of small communities and into a central national fund. Source: 1 NEWS