Govt needs to be upfront on border exemptions

The Government needs to explain why special permission has been granted for the Avatar film crew to enter New Zealand but America’s Cup teams are still waiting for their visas to be approved, National’s Economic Development spokesperson Judith Collins says.

“Up until the weekend, we were under the impression that New Zealand’s borders were shut to everyone except returning citizens and permanent residents. 

“But yesterday we found out that Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford has signed off on 28 applications based on economic grounds, representing 201 essential workers, after being granted special powers by Cabinet on 21 April 2020. In total the Government has granted 2354 border exemptions.

“This includes special permission for the Avatar film crews to enter.

“The Government never publicised these border exemptions and it only came to light after the arrival of the film crew at the weekend.

“The Government now needs to be upfront on what the criteria are.

“Crucially, if economic grounds are a criteria then we need the Minister to explain why the America’s Cup teams are still waiting on their visas.

“The America’s Cup will provide significant economic contributions to New Zealand’s economy over the coming year of up to $1 billion, and create more than 8000 jobs.

“The Minister needs to prioritise approving these visas so the teams can get here and train, and so New Zealand can reap the economic benefits.

“The Minister said in the House yesterday that his border exemption regime was “case-by-case”. This simply isn’t good enough and appears to be a case of the Minister picking favourites.  

“Not only is there a startling lack of transparency but it’s another case of arrogance by the Government.”