Transparent to the world, but not so to Kiwi’s

Every year Transparency International release a ranked list of nations transparency. 176 nations featured in the most recent version, which was released a couple of days ago. This project aims to create a sense of understanding of how a nation is performing in terms of its Government departments; state servants and elected officials.

To be in the top 20 for most nations would be a huge effort. But New Zealand has consistently been in the top 5, along with Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland. For the outsider looking inwards it seems free of major scandals, has a highly accountable security apparatus and relatively responsible police force. No major human rights abuses happen and New Zealanders seem relatively happy and free. And first place among all those nations seems to be justified.

Or so it seems from the outside. Non-Kiwi’s on work visas here have told me New Zealand is the best country, and when I have asked them why, they have often said no corruption (for a person whose first language is not English, “no corruption” might be easier than ” minor or low amounts of corruption”).

But whilst this is great news – and it is – it raises some serious questions about the process that new immigrants need to take to become fully fledged New Zealanders.

So whilst I admire the achievement and Transparency International saying so, we can be better in terms of how New Zealanders perceive the issue. Government departments need to get better at answering Official Information Act requests in a timely manner.  Unless it poses an obvious national security threat, an O.I.A. request is legally required to be fulfilled. There need to be meaningful measures that can be taken when corruption is detected, which both stop the act of corruption dead, but also discourage it from happening again. The courts need to be more willing to enforce the harder end of New Zealand law when serial non-compliance is happening.

It is on this note that I say I expect Peter Thiel and Immigration New Zealand to come completely clean on how he became a New Zealand citizen and able to buy up a substantial chunk of land. What grounds and what mechanism has the Government used to enable this and other purchases of land that New Zealanders should have had a say in, happen? What was the role of the Immigration Minister in all of this? New Zealanders have a right to know that their land is not being taken from under them by stealth using very wealthy individuals.

So, will the Minister for Immigration come clean now and tell us how Mr Thiel got New Zealand citizenship, or are we going to have to drag it out of him?

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