National Party leader Simon Bridges says Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway chose the "lazy" option when he granted a repeat drink-driver residency.
On Tuesday, Newshub revealed that earlier this year Lees-Galloway gave residency to an individual with six drink driving convictions and two convictions for driving without a license.
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- National granted repeat drink-driver temporary visa in 2013
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But Lees-Galloway was limited in what he could do as the individual is a protected person, meaning deportation was not an option. According to Immigration New Zealand, a protected person is a person for whom there are "substantial grounds for believing she or he would be in danger of torture, arbitrary deprivation of life or cruel treatment if deported from New Zealand".
While the National Party criticised the Minister, it also emerged that in 2013, National Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse granted the individual a temporary work visa, which was renewed by Immigration New Zealand in 2016.
Bridges defended that action on Wednesday, saying there was a big difference between granting a temporary visa and giving out a residency.
"This was, under us, temporary. [Lees-Galloway] didn't have to, he had a choice, he made it permanent when he knew this guy had six drink driving convictions," he told The AM Show.
"Iain Lees-Galloway is the guy who should be fronting. He is the one who has given this guy the keys to the kingdom."
But responding to questions from National in Parliament on Tuesday, Lees-Galloway said granting a temporary visa "essentially has the same effect" as giving residency as the person remains in the country, but it comes with "unnecessary bureaucracy".
"It comes with the unnecessary bureaucracy of continually having to reissue a visa to someone who cannot be deported," the Minister said.
But Bridges called it "lazy".
"This guy, because of the nature of how he has come, he could not be deported. That doesn't mean Iain Lees-Galloway needed to do the lazy, soft thing that he has done, which is to say 'oh well in that case, let's make it easy for me and just grant him residency'," Bridges told The AM Show.
"I say actually, leave the guy in limbo on temporary visas."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern defended Lees-Galloway on Tuesday, saying she could not get involved in the decision.
"A protected person - that's a decision that's made by a tribunal, not by ministers, not by politicians. That's made separately.
"Once somebody is designated as a protected person they cannot be deported or removed from New Zealand."
Lees-Galloway previously came under fire when he cancelled the deportation liability of convicted drug smuggler Karel Sroubek.