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New Zealand Premier Fires Minister

November 24, 1999

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) _ New Zealand’s prime minister fired her immigration minister today after he offered Chinese migrants residency if they invested in Maori land or businesses.

Tuariki John Delamere, an independent Maori lawmaker, was removed from his post after offering 21 Chinese migrants entry into New Zealand if each put $200,000 in Maori land development or $300,000 into businesses that are 60 percent Maori-owned.

Much of the money was to have been invested in his own district, where Delamere is struggling to hold onto his parliamentary seat. Under New Zealand immigration laws, migrant entrepreneurs wanting to set up a business in New Zealand must invest $500,000 in the nation.

The Maori, New Zealand’s indigenous people, make up 10 percent of the population of 3.8 million but generally are underprivileged with worse health and higher unemployment than national averages.

Prime Minister Jenny Shipley, facing near-certain defeat by the opposition Labor Party in elections Saturday, fired Delamere from the immigration post but kept him in the Cabinet in his other position as minister of Pacific Island affairs and associate minister of health.

``Against advice from myself, from officials and others, Mr. Delamere approved this application, contingent on the fact the investors would invest in Maori land,″ Shipley said.

Shipley called the deal ``repugnant to all New Zealanders.″

Her swift action was aimed at nipping in the bud a potential scandal for her government in the final days of the election campaign. Shipley’s decision was expected to win her votes among conservatives but lose Maori votes.

Delamere was defiant shortly before being fired, saying the investment in Maori activity was ``very positive for this country.″

Shipley is lagging in the polls behind Labor leader Helen Clark, who has pledged to raise taxes and spend more on health, education and industrial development.

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