16 Aug 2004

New Zealand government criticised over Pacific access scheme

4:30 pm on 16 August 2004

The foreign affairs spokesman for the New Zealand Green Party says the government has dodged a key immigration issue in its Pacific Access announcements last week.

The government has loosened some access criteria for Pacific Islanders.

But Keith Locke says the issue of visa-free entry for Samoans has not been addressed satisfactorily.

In 1982 the Privy Council ruled that Samoans born between 1924 and 1948 were New Zealand citizens, but the Muldoon Government passed an Act in the same year which overruled the legislation.

Earlier this year, a 100-thousand signature petition was presented to parliament asking for visa-free entry and a protest march numbering 5-thousand took place in Apia.

Mr Locke says there are huge inconsistencies in New Zealand's approach to Samoan Immigrants.

"New Zealand could be embarrassed at the United Nations if that was pointed out and if the victory that the Samoans won at the Privy Council is not being properly recognised in terms of substantive changes to access to New Zealand."

Keith Locke.