Jacinda Ardern tells Immigration New Zealand to 'reverse' partnership visa changes

Jacinda Ardern expects Immigration New Zealand to "reverse" its instruction to officials to stop granting partnership visas as an exception to the rules, which had become standard practice. 

"Immigration New Zealand made changes... our expectation is that we return to the way that we were operating prior to the changes that they made," the Prime Minister said Wednesday. 

"That was changed as a result of Immigration New Zealand officials changing the way they were operating... They did not do that under the authority of Cabinet."

Immigration NZ's Peter Elms explained to Newshub last month that officials now have to "ensure immigration instructions are adhered to unless there are circumstances in the particular case that warrants a waiver or exception to instructions".

That means immigrants must be able to show that they're living together in a genuine and stable relationship before INZ can grant a visa based on partnership. 

It led members of the Indian community in New Zealand to speak out, saying the current partnership visa rules disadvantage those who come from cultures that practise arranged marriages. 

Cabinet Minister Shane Jones then got involved, defending Immigration NZ's change. 

"You have no legitimate expectations in my view to bring your whole village to New Zealand, and if you don't like it and you're threatening to go home, then catch the next flight home," he told RNZ last month. 

Jones stirred further controversy after he dismissed concerns within the Indian community that his comments could lead to discrimination and racist sentiment. 

Jones said this week that was a "Bollywood overreaction", and was adamant he's been speaking on behalf of New Zealanders who want more control on immigration. 

But Ardern said Immigration NZ's decision "never came to Cabinet", and described it as a change "made arbitrarily by officials and we're seeking for that to return to the status quo". 

Elms said last month Immigration NZ is "mindful of cultural complexities and sensitivities" when dealing with visa applicants, but felt the organisation "must observe immigration policy as set by the Government". 

Jones said on Wednesday he had "nothing to add in relation to what the Prime Minister has stated" after she said she expects Immigration NZ to return to the status quo. 

"My deeper concerns I'll be talking to our caucus, and our caucus position is, of course, is not beholding to anyone," Jones said. 

"However, most of my concerns with the population issues, what will be happening is that they will be an item of great interest and campaigning for next year."

Jones said just because New Zealand First signed up to the coalition agreement, that "doesn't stop me as a politician belonging to a nine-person caucus continuing to evolve our thinking in relation to immigration". 

He said "immigrant radicals" should "never have picked a fight with New Zealand First".

"I accept I'm a tad combustible with some of the things that I say. But people from the immigrant community need to accept that I have 1000 years of lineage in Aotearoa so I've got every right to talk about these issues.

"I'm personally surprised how quickly we've grown to 5 million people and I think it's about we as Kiwis addressed some underlying issues.

"People are anxious about the pace of transition."