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WINZ visits suspended

Work and Income visits to rural and satellite sites have been suspended until further notice.

This comes as part of a nationwide service centre security review after two WINZ staff were killed in Ashburton at the beginning of September.

The Southern region is the most affected, with site visits suspended at Fairlie, Geraldine, Lumsden, Nightcaps, Ohai, Otautau, Riverton, Te Anau, Tuatapere, Twizel, Waimate, and Winton.

Te Anau Heartland Services coordinator Marilyn Redfern said the directive had come from Wellington and could be permanent.

“To their knowledge they’re not coming back,” she said. “It’s not even the killings that’s done it, it’s all the aftermath: people having their windows broken, people getting death threats.”

It would be business as usual for local WINZ clients, who could still utilise Heartland Services for advice and help with processing applications, Mrs Redfern said.

“My authority has been broadened a bit.”

Winton community support worker Louise Faithful is not part of Heartland Services and said without regular WINZ visits people would be disadvantaged.

“There will be instances where clients need to travel to Invercargill or Gore,” she said. “There are a lot of people out here who are on benefits who can’t get into town.”

Since last year, WINZ had been monitoring rural and satellite sites around the country, and southern managers had said the number of appointments wasn’t where they wanted it, Ms Faithful said.

Northern Southland community support worker Lynley Soper said she had been able to act as a conduit between WINZ clients and case workers so far this month as an interim solution.

“So far, WINZ have been very accommodating,” she said. “We will have to wait and see what the outcome of the review will be.”

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