Blogger told to stop advising on immigration

A blogger who came to New Zealand from Britain has been warned to stop giving immigration advice on her blog – or face prosecution under the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act.

The Immigration Advisers Authority says Helen Winterbottom was breaking the law by posting on, and has told her she must get a licence if she wants to continue.

Registrar Barry Smedts said the authority had issued 18 warning letters since the law came into effect on May 4, but he believed Ms Winterbottom was the only blogger to have been warned.

But the former pharmacist said she was only ‘speaking her mind’ on her blog, which she started last November, and did not have any intention of becoming an immigration adviser.

Ms Winterbottom said she did not have the written warning, but had been told by the authority that one of her blog entries broke the law.

…. The Immigration Advisers Act requires anyone who gives immigration advice, whether directly or indirectly, whether or not for gain or reward, to be licensed unless exempt. [emphasis added]

Those operating without a licence face fines of up to $100,000 and jail terms of up to seven years.

Full story NZ Herald – Tuesday Sep 22, 2009 By Lincoln Tan

Unless I’m missing something, it’s starting to get a little silly when people can’t express an opinion on their blog about the law and its implications without getting threatened with jail and large fines. What happened to fair comment?

The Immigration spokesman: “Mr Smedts said the act was in place to protect migrants from poor advice” and that’s a noble cause, of course. Without question.

But is this Ms Winterbottom (a) giving poor advice? or (b) positioning herself to take advantage of people — though her blog or some allied activity? Or (c) issuing false immigration documents, or (d) falsifying applications to the department?
I don’t know, but it doesn’t appear so.

And if she was doing any of those things, that would be an offence worth prosecuting — but “Just stop talking about it” ??? Huh?

Why the heavy-handed approach, in her case, I wonder?