Posts in category: Government
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Letters from the Southern Man
Migrating is more than just filling in forms and submitting paperwork, its a complex process that will test even the most resilient of people.
Understanding New Zealand is paramount to your immigration survival and to give you a realistic view of the country, its people and how we see the world, read our weekly Southern Man blogs. Often humorous, sometimes challenging, but always food for thought.
As you will no doubt be aware from last weeks blog, the Southern Man has taken a leave of absence this week, pursuing his own personal equivalent of the Tour de France, through Central Otago on the world famous (in New Zealand) Otago Rail Trail.
He has been updating the office regularly with tales of climbing great peaks, pedalling for hours, freezing cold mornings, and stunning scenery; all part of the fun I am sure. Thus far it appears he will be back in one piece next week and no doubt reporting on his adventures, but in the meantime he has entrusted the weekly blog to me.
It wasn’t difficult for me to pick a topic for this week’s blog, simply because when you do what we do there are always interesting stories to tell. There is one, however, that has been a simultaneous source of laughter and frustration for me and one of my colleagues over the last couple of months. A story which I believe has to be shared. For those of you in South Africa, this will be familiar territory; for those of you in other parts of the world, it may surprise or shock you (or might also be familiar), but will definitely prompt at least a few chuckles.
Before I tell my story let me share with you a great and very relevant quote, which I have stuck on the wall in my study at home:
“There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it. Everybody was sure somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it. It ended up that everybody blamed Somebody when actually Nobody asked Anybody.”
I often refer to this during heated conversations with my wife, over why various domestic chores never get done (don’t try this yourself - it doesn’t work) and also to remind me to remain calm when doing my day job. We deal with Government departments all day every day, not only in New Zealand but all over the world in an attempt to gather together all of the bits of paper one needs to file an application for Residence. If there was ever a position created to administer every Government department in the world, and I was elected the Chief Executive, my first point of order would be to add the above quote to the mission statement.
For anyone that has had to deal with a Government department in South Africa, I am pretty sure they would want that quote emblazoned across the department’s front door in neon flashing lights.
The following is just one example of the hundreds of stories we could tell, but it is a particularly humorous one (something light for the Easter break).
We routinely send off requests to the South African Police for ‘Clearance Certificates’ on behalf of our clients. It is supposed to be a fairly straightforward process where we send the applicant’s fingerprints, a copy of their passport and the fee to the SA police in order for them to search their database (rifle through stacks of paper) and issue the clearance.
For this particular client we followed the ‘normal’ process and the application was sent away by courier. Eager to follow up on its progress and knowing that they usually take around 6-8 weeks to do anything about it, my very diligent (and patient) colleague Jo, followed up a few weeks later to check on progress. What followed on from there makes me laugh every time I think about it.
Firstly the person in charge of this request (let’s call her Janice – not her actual name) asked whether or not our client was a South African citizen, this would have been plainly obvious from the copy of the passport that had been provided; nonetheless we confirmed that he was.
The next email from Janice was a request for his South African ID number, which again would have been pretty obvious from his passport; however we confirmed his ID number and asked for an update.
We were then advised by Janice that the cheque payment included with the application was ‘unacceptable’. We still to this day don’t know why it was unacceptable or where the cheque is, but that doesn’t surprise me greatly. There was also no suggestion as to what to do next, so of course we asked and shortly after we were given bank account details to complete a telegraphic funds transfer for the R59.00 fee. Despite the fact that the fee in New Zealand dollars was equivalent to $6.00 and the cost to send the transfer was more than the fee itself, the client immediately did this and we advised Janice accordingly.
Having received no update we followed up again and received the following response: “Hi, Are you an (sic) SA citizen”. At this point I was about to give up and I was conjuring up all sorts of expletives to put down in an email as a response. My very patient colleague however responded politely (not sure how she managed that) and reiterated the fact that the request was for my client and they had all the information they needed.
Shortly thereafter, Janice informed us that the clearance was ready for collection. We contacted our courier company to collect it and have it returned to us. The courier called the next day to advise that it was in fact not yet ready and hence no Police Clearance for my client. It turns out that the bank details that Janice had given us were incorrect and the payment hadn’t been made. I am not sure how that translated into her email that the Clearance was ready, but frankly at this point I wouldn’t have been surprised if the Police Department had relocated its offices to the moon and they actually wanted us to complete an intergalactic funds transfer.
We emailed Janice again and, understandably, Jo’s patience by now was about as thin as the paper you would print a Police Clearance on. Janice in her wisdom sent back the same account details – leaving us all scratching our heads. Searching for a solution, as we do, we suggested that the client pay the fee again, this time asking someone in South Africa to physically deposit the money; which he did.
Today we have sent off what we hope is our final response to Janice to try and track down one piece of paper which has taken three payment attempts, 20 or so emails and a good deal of patience to obtain. I only hope they spell his name right.
You might be wondering what the client thought about all of this, which is best summed up in his email to us (and is going to be the next quote on my study wall – perhaps in neon lights):
“Hi Jo, ‘If you are not confused, you are misinformed’ - South African Police credo.”
With any luck we will almost be at the end of the process and within a few days he should have that lovely yellow certificate that we have been chasing for the last two months, that is of course unless Janice, (who is all at once the Nobody, Somebody, Everybody and Anybody from my original quote) still isn’t sure whether he is a South African citizen, or we are or whether or not she is … I’ll keep you posted.
Until next week when the Southern Man returns – Paul Janssen (acting Southern Man)
We have just had our national elections and as expected the centre right National Party was returned to power and will form the next Government with two (very) minor parties in coalition for the next three years.
I was going to write about the upcoming election last week but decided it was too dull and boring (one thing about living in a highly stable democracy is that politics here really will put you to sleep most of the time) but an article that appeared in the New Zealand Herald this morning has made me think.
The article suggested that significant numbers of new immigrants do not register or vote in elections.
Given the fact that many of our migrants come from countries that do not have true democratic elections or come from (effective) one party states like South Africa I would have thought that most would jump at the chance to be involved in this process.
On Saturday only around 65% of all eligible voters (not just migrants) turned out for this year’s election which is the lowest in percentage terms for 120 years.
I don’t know if migrants vote or don’t vote (feedback please!!) but in terms of those who have been here a few years or were born here I rather suspect the main reason for this is that the two major parties that slug it out to be the biggest political party in Government were polling so differently that many people probably thought it just wasn’t worth turning out to vote.
The National Party were so far ahead in the polls that I am sure some of their own supporters probably thought there was no point in turning up. Arguably the major opposition Labour Party supporters perhaps thought the same – their ticket was polling so poorly that they were going to lose heavily and thought that their vote would make no difference.
Which I find really odd.
I wouldn’t miss voting for the world.
When I have been overseas during elections I have always cast a special vote.
My eldest son turned 18 in September and I felt it was extremely important that he register to vote and to then accept the responsibility that comes with living in a democracy and have his say in this his first election.
It is so easy here – you can register online to vote and it takes all of five minutes. Within a few days you will receive a pack where you have to decide which of the Electoral Rolls you wish to be on – the General or the Maori (those who identify as being of Maori descent have a small amount of seats available to them out of the 120 seat Parliament – that is another story for another day).
Even if you can’t get to a polling booth on the day the Electoral Commission will arrange for someone to either come and pick you up (seriously) or if you are disabled or sick they come and help you to cast a special vote. My colleague Chris flew out to Malaysia late last week and there was even a polling booth in the Qantas Lounge at Auckland airport! How cool (and organised) is that?
Back to my son, I even took photos of him with his first ever ‘quick vote’ card outside the polling booth. He of course thought I was “being a dick as usual” but having taken both my sons down to the local polling booth every year since they were very young to share in this three yearly rite I was so keen to join him as he cast his first ballot. More excited than he apparently was to have me with him…
In fact it has to be said that I was extra excited this year given we had another contributing member of our great little democracy off to do his bit.
When I enter the local polling station to cast my ballots I am always struck by how serious and solemn I feel about it – as if my vote really will make a difference to the country in which I live.
Which when you think about it is kind of silly but I guess democracy is based on the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. I always feel as though my votes are the most important ones made on the day. Really, I do.
We get two votes under this system – one for the local electorate candidate and one for a political party. It is a system called Mixed Member Proportional representation or MMP for short. It means that parties end up with the number of seats in Parliament that reflects the percentage of their national vote (more or less). Similar to Germany it generally leads to coalitions with one dominant party supported by one or two smaller ones.
The system is effectively designed to prevent any one party having an outright majority of seats in Parliament and exercising unbridled power. I for one am a bit of a fan of this system although critics will tell you that it means too much horse trading. Some might just call it compromise. Tails don’t wag dogs in our Parliament however and by and large it seems to work.
This year we also got to vote in a referendum on whether we wished to retain the current Mixed Member Proportional voting system or change it. As a result we had two ballot papers – one for the referendum and one to vote for Parliament.
Having entered the hall, handed over my ‘Quick Vote’ card and being ‘ticked off’ the electoral roll (all in the space of about two minutes) I was handed my two voting papers – one orange and one purple.
I solemnly reminded my son how the system worked and how he goes about selecting his Party and candidate and in grateful reply received a “Yeah dad you’ve like, only explained it, like, a thousand times already” so I left him to it, scuttled off into a ‘booth’ and made my sacred marks on the coloured ballot papers.
Having done so I then went to the very helpfully marked orange and purple boxes and proceeded to put the purple referendum voting paper in the orange box and the orange election voting paper in the purple box!
I couldn’t believe it. I broke into a cold sweat. I laughed nervously when I told my wife what had happened. Would my votes be disallowed? Not counted? Would ‘my’ party not get elected? What if my local candidate lost by one vote? I couldn’t bear the thought of it. You may well laugh dear reader but in the Christchurch Central electorate there was a dead heat on Saturday with two candidates getting something like 10,349 votes each so it does happen!!
We’ve all heard of the butterfly effect – had I just changed the course of New Zealand history owing to my idiocy?
I felt like a complete imbecile of course and had to ask one of the ‘officials’ if they would recognise my precious votes when it came to counting time. They actually didn’t say yes but I think they indicated they would. I was so gutted that I may have blown it that I wasn’t really listening.
My son just laughed. You have to love teenagers. He ticked his boxes, made his ‘political statement’, placed his votes in the correctly coloured boxes and went to the sausage sizzle being run by the local Russian Orthodox church members (in whose hall the voting was being done) and snacked merrily on a snag in bread dripping in tomato sauce. No doubt secure in the knowledge he really is the son of a ‘dick’.
So it is over for another three years.
And just for the record my party ‘won’ and the local candidate I voted for was also elected to Parliament.
For those of you recently arrived or not yet here a few ‘need to knows’ on voting:
1. It is mandatory as a citizen or permanent resident when you turn 18 to enrol to vote and to get registered on the Electoral Roll.
2. Voting however is not compulsory.
3. You get two votes – one for the party you wish to see in Parliament and a second electorate vote where you vote for the person in your local electorate you want to send off to Parliament.
All rather simple really.
A little bit of housekeeping to finish up.
We are closing for our Christmas break (I’m counting the days) on Thursday 22 December at mid day and we re-open on 9 January 2012. If you have any visa applications you need filed please ensure they get here no later than Friday 17 December. The Immigration Department will close on 23 December and likely reopen on Wednesday 4 January so nothing will happen over that time with applications even if filed.
Over the Christmas break we will not be clearing phone messages. Emails may be answered from time to time but I will leave this up to each consultant. Any mail that arrives will be held at the Post Office/Courier depots etc. awaiting our re-opening on 9 January.
Those of you in Singapore – Chris Noakes is heading your way to present his final seminar for 2011 this Saturday. You can register here.