27 Jun 2017

Labour's intern woes: Students may not have had right visas

5:51 pm on 27 June 2017

Two of the foreign volunteers in Labour's botched intern scheme may have broken immigration laws.

Labour leader Andrew Little

Labour leader Andrew Little Photo: RNZ / Brad White

More than 80 young people came to New Zealand as part of the Campaign for Change programme, run by former Chief of Staff Matt McCarten.

Some of the interns complained about the living conditions at their accommodation at Auckland's Awataha Marae.

Labour had to take over the programme when it became clear it was having teething problems.

In a statement, the Labour Party said officials had been in Auckland over the past week, sorting out the international volunteer programme.

They discovered that two of the students may not have held the visa necessary to participate in the programme. The two interns have left the programme - one has left the country, and the other is due to leave soon.

"Our understanding is that all participants were advised of the need to obtain working holiday visas.

"The two individuals concerned both chose to leave the programme last week while Labour Party Head Office was still in the process of establishing control over the programme and confirming the status of the individuals concerned."

The party said all volunteers who would remain in New Zealand on the programme had a valid working holiday visa.

Labour Party general secretary Andrew Kirton said it has not been confirmed what visa the pair were on, but he assumed it was a visitor's visa.

"Since we've taken over, we've gotten to the bottom of this straight away and as part of that process I wanted to ensure every single volunteer was on the correct documentation.

"As soon as we've had information that that wasn't the case we've been upfront about that."

Meanwhile, a member of the Labour Party council has stood down over the issue.

Leader Andrew Little said Paul Chalmers had stood down from the party's governing council over the matter.

"At some point the party's going to have to do what looks like a review or an investigation to find out people's levels of involvement, what they knew when and how we got to the point that we got to."

Some of the interns complained about the living conditions at their accommodation at Auckland's Awataha Marae.

The interns were not paid, but were given free accommodation and had their expenses covered.

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