Ministry health

How Immigration NZ helped the Department of Health prioritize action against Covid rule breakers

Healthcare staff used a system designed to prioritize evictions when deciding who to take action against for breaking Covid-19 rules.

Health staff have adapted a system used by immigration officers to decide who to take action against for breaking Covid-19 rules.
Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

The Department of Health has adapted the National Prioritization Process (NPP), which began to be used by immigration officers three years ago.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) said it helped design the decision-making process for health officials.

He told his former minister, Kris Faafoi, during a briefing that the prioritization process could and had been adapted for use in decision-making in other “high risk” areas.

“Following a review of INZ’s compliance deportation and detention activities, the National Prioritization Process (NPP) not only improves how we prioritize risk and triage allegations, it allows INZ to be intelligence and data driven: using data, intelligence and insights to guide MBIEs [Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment] working in investigations and compliance allegations for INZ in relation to breaches of the Immigration Act 2009 and immigration related offenses under the Crimes Act 1961.

“The NPP methodology is replicable and adaptable. It has been successfully adapted to support the Ministry of Health’s Covid-19 response to non-compliance with self-isolation with the support of INZ staff in the design and ongoing handling of allegations of non-compliance. The methodology is now recognized by other agencies as an effective and efficient tool to support regulatory decision-making when operating in a high-risk and rapidly changing environment.”

In a response to the Official Information Act, INZ said it had been using the national prioritization process since February 2019 and had assisted the Department of Health during Covid-19 as part of the whole-of-the-world response. government, but declined an Official Information Act (OIA) request to say what the criteria were.

“Factors considered when triaging and prioritizing [immigration] compliance activity includes the potential seriousness of a legislative violation or the risk to the community posed by the violation; and the risk the breach poses to the strategic priorities of the immigration system, which is focused on supporting New Zealand’s economic growth and strengthening our relationships with other parts of the world,” his official said. Managing Director of Audit and Compliance, Richard Owen.

“The same methodology was applied to potential violations of relevant health legislation and public health orders in place to support the Covid-19 response.”

Immigration lawyer Nick Mason told RNZ that more information was also needed on how INZ’s compliance prioritization policy was applied.

“I’m really worried about where this program or this process came from because it looks like it was adapted from something else. If we don’t know the prioritization criteria, which seems very difficult to know, we I can’t even tell if it’s fair or not.”

The agency has faced controversy over further attempts to determine which visa violating migrants it would target – and which of them have done New Zealand the most harm, as she was prioritizing her compliance resources.

Former immigration minister Iain Lees-Galloway has suspended a controversial pilot scheme after RNZ revealed the criteria it was using.

And the stepfather of a murdered schoolgirl, and the victim of a serious assault, were both initially given priority for deportation despite their reasons for having to be in the country.

A review highlighted failures, including that officers did not know when to use their discretion and that prioritization within compliance [https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/378910/immigration-nz-staff-don-t-know-when-to-prioritise-cases-review

did not operate in a strategic or coherent manner].

RNZ requested further clarification on the immigration and health prioritization criteria.