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America's Cup: Teams receive documentation as Questions asked in NZ Parliament

by Richard Gladwell, 2 Jun 01:55 PDT 2 June 2020
Dean Barker on the helm of NYYC's AC75 Defiant - January 2020 - Pensacola, Florida. © Will Ricketson

Some progress appears to have been made allowing America's Cup teams into New Zealand.

The crew of NYYC American Magic and other challengers received their immigration exemption applications last Friday (May 29).

The New York Yacht Club's team American Magic is believed to have completed their documentation and have lodged it with the relevant New Zealand authorities.

"The American Magic team has submitted work visa applications and are anxiously awaiting information to define the process for entry into New Zealand. At the time of writing, no protocol for entry has been given to our team. We are confident that this will happen in the coming day, understanding that it is a very fluid situation," Executive Director Terry Hutchinson told Sail-World earlier on Friday.

Several America's Cup issues were traversed in the NZ Parliament Tuesday afternoon, following the arrival of 54 members of the production team associated with the blockbuster movie Avatar 2. They flew into New Zealand in the weekend on a chartered Air New Zealand 787-9 and went into quarantine in a Wellington hotel.

While there seems to be some progress with the America's Cup teams following exposure of their plight in New Zealand media over the past week, there doesn't seem to be any progress with other groups associated with the Cup - superyacht visitors, international media, and visiting fans.

Responding to questions in the NZ Parliament on the issue of America's Cup teams being allowed into New Zealand, the Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway said that he "was not aware of any correspondence relating to visa exemptions regarding any of the foreign teams in the America's Cup. None of the syndicates has indicated they want to be exempted from our usual immigration requirements," he added.

Those comments appeared to be a play on terminology, by the Minister, given that under the New Zealand current border closure, the usual entry visa has been replaced with an exemption from the current entry restrictions.

"I can inform the House that I have had regular correspondence with Dean Barker, as head of the American Magic syndicate (sic) on the subject of travel to New Zealand for the America's Cup, since he contacted my office on March 23, 2020. This included a video conference on the March 25, 2020, and further correspondence since."

"Immigration NZ officials have been in regular discussions with the America's Cup syndicates since July 2019. The context of those discussions has changed significantly since that time." Lees-Galloway added.

Opposition spokesman on Immigration (Stuart Smith, National) asked why visas for some America's Cup teams had not been approved despite specific instructions to staff on August 20, 2018, that immigration visas to America's Cup teams should be "issued in a timely manner".

The Minister explained that a process had now been established for exemptions from the "restrictions that are in place," a reference to the complete ban on incoming visitors, except for NZ passport holders and permanent residents.

"I understand that applications for an exemption have been lodged with MBIE and have been processed for consideration by the Minister for Economic Development".

The Minister refused to give a direct answer to a further question from the Opposition spokesman on Immigration as to whether the applications would be approved by June 15 for teams to prepare for the event properly.

"I am confident that the process that has been put in place and has been discussed with the syndicates will be applied appropriately", was the Minister's response.

Earlier in the session, responding to questions from Judith Collins, Opposition Spokesperson for Economic Development, another Minister was questioned as to how the Government were able to allow 54 film workers from Los Angeles into New Zealand.

The Minister of Economic Development, Phil Twyford, said that Cabinet had "agreed to border restrictions on March 19, preventing all entry into New Zealand with some specific exemptions. Those exemptions included essential workers agreed on a case by case basis by the Cabinet COVID Committee."

The Minister advised that he had signed off 28 applications, representing 201 essential workers. He said that 2354 border exemptions had been granted to date. Of these 1906 approvals had been on family or humanitarian grounds.

In a third exchange, with implications for superyachts intending to enter New Zealand, it was revealed that a large fishing vessel which would normally have urgent engineering work undertaken in Nelson was turned away. It was claimed the action cost the local economy "millions of dollars and jobs". On the previous visit the vessel had $6.5million of maintenance and repairs undertaken in Nelson.

The boat had been at sea for several weeks and had come from American Samoa, which is free of COVID-19.

The Minister of Customs said the decision to refuse entry was based on advice from the Director-General of Health and the Ministry of Health.

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