First let me state that I am not a licensed immigration adviser and none of the entries on this blog should be treated or used as immigration advice.
I grew up in London and migrated to NZ in 2000 with my wife and three daughters. Our migration experiences lead my wife Tammy and I to look at how we could help others moving to and settling in New Zealand.
In 2005 we launched move2nz.com to provide new, settled and prospective migrants access to real-life, unbiased information about New Zealand, migration and settlement – intended to empower people to make informed decisions that were best for them.
The site also linked people together to share stories, make friends and build support right throughout the move and long after.
move2nz.com has over 33,000 members and was voted New Zealand’s Best Community Website in the prestigious People’s Choice NetGuide Web Awards in both 2008 and 2009.
Realising most newcomers were encountering problems we lobbied government to provide settlement help. When that failed we funded and opened our own dedicated Centre for Migrants in 2006, volunteering 40 hours a week each to provide direct completely free settlement support services.
The Centre assisted well over 10,000 families between 2006 and 2009 offering one-to-one support, migrant information, weekly gatherings, seminars and over 80 social events a year at no cost to the public and without any funding.
In February 2009 our Centre was nominated by the city of Christchurch to take over the government’s Settlement Support initiative in the city.
Gathering huge amounts of information on the causes of migration problems we saw a pattern and in both 2007 and 2008 Tammy and I travelled back to the UK to present a series of Seminars aimed at helping people avoid the problems we encountered every day by giving good information to them before the stepped on a plane.
The Seminars were held in association with the immigration department and were hugely successful with immediate and long term benefits apparent to the migrants we helped.
In May/June 2009 our Centre was flooded by migrants in desperate situations caused by a combination of the recession and resulting changes in the immigration department’s practices.
While trying to help destitute families we raised the issue with the Minister but were ignored. Calling a public meeting we brought together professionals, service providers, MPs and immigration staff to confirm the problem and create positive action. I also went on to TV and radio to highlight the mistake that was being made because of the negative impact this would have on employers and the NZ economy.
Following an appearance on TV3 news about this issue a new government department dealt us a devastating blow. I was served legal notice by the Immigration Advisers Authority that I had broken the law and threatened with a long jail time if I did it again.
Since then I have been fighting to find out exactly what I am supposed to have done without success. The IAA’s failure to provide a reply meant however that our Centre had to close (ending our plans to open centres around the country) and our booked 2009 Seminars in the UK had to be cancelled. move2nz.com however was able to continue.
We have used the Official Information Act to access IAA papers and discovered that they acted without reason or justification. There is no suggestion anywhere in the papers released which point to a breach of the law.
Now we are fighting to get to the bottom of what happened and build move2nz back to where it can help support migrants again. This blog is intended to tell anyone interested about our fight and will be updated as often as I can.
– Mike Bell