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America's Cup: Kiwi Government extends Avatar deal to Cup sailors

by Richard Gladwell Sail-World NZ 11 Jun 21:10 PDT 12 June 2020
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaking at Emirates Team New Zealand AC75 launch on September 6, 2019 © Richard Gladwell / Sail-World.com

New Zealand's Coalition Government has responded to media and political pressure and has announced an easing and expansion of immigration restrictions, to be similar to those applicable for the Avatar 2 movie crew who arrived in New Zealand at the end of May via charter jet.

The announcement came at the end of a fortnight of lobbying by various parties including Judith Collins, Opposition spokesperson and Economic Development and Stuart Smith, Opposition spokesperson for Immigration.

One of the America's Cup Challengers had an application ready to file with the Arbitration Panel over the closed border policy adopted by New Zealand in response to the COVID-19 virus. The situation became untenable when it became known via social media that 57 members of the crew of the blockbuster Avatar had arrived in Wellington at the end of May by chartered Air New Zealand jet, which had flown from Los Angeles - where 4700 deaths had occurred from the virus. Several of the party included family members and partners of the crew.

The America's Cup teams had lodged applications to enter New Zealand prior to the lockdown, on March 25, but these had not been progressed, and when questions were asked following the Avatar crew approval, Economic Development Minister Hon. Phil Twyford stated that he had not seen any applications from America's Cup teams.

Subsequent to that statement American Magic and INEOS Team UK resubmitted their applications which have been approved today. It is understood that the US and UK Ambassadors had to be called in to make representations on behalf of the teams. There has been no announcement on the status of the Challenger of Record, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli (ITA), however their application is expected later with the team anticipating travelling to New Zealand in September, to be sailing in October.

The regime outlined by the Ministers of Immigration and Business development provides for the teams to apply to bring their personnel, families and in one case a nanny into New Zealand for the America's Cup build-up and regattas.

Like the Avatar crew they will have to undergo quarantine for 14 days at their cost.

It is assumed that the conditions will also apply to those attend the Youth America's Cup.

However there are several groups who are part of an America's Cup regatta, such as media, TV production, sponsors, officials and fans who are not covered by the latest announcement. It is expected that their situation will be resolved later in the year.

Emirates Team New Zealand response

New Zealand has led the world in its response and elimination of COVID19, and now that country's focus has changed to rebuilding the economy we are pleased that the initial challengers have been granted exemption to enter New Zealand after following the government's due processes", Emirates Team New Zealand said in a written statement.

We are also pleased to see that the economic benefits of superyachts and the marine sector have been recognised in today's border exemptions.

We look forward to welcoming the teams to Auckland in the coming months, the statement concluded.

The Government has granted border exemptions to two syndicate teams who will challenge Emirates Team New Zealand for the 36th America’s Cup, Phil Twyford, Minister of Economic Development said. The 36th America’s Cup is expected to create a massive economic spin-off for New Zealand. The series of events will conclude with the final match for the America’s Cup being held in Auckland in March 2021.

The US Challenger, team American Magic, will bring a total of 102 workers, along with 104 family members, to New Zealand. INEOS Team UK will bring in a total of 86 workers and 128 family members and one nanny. Syndicates are expected to be in New Zealand for up to ten months.

The America’s Cup teams across all international syndicates are estimated to contribute over $100 million into the economy during their time in New Zealand.

“The Government and Auckland Council have made significant commitments and investments in building infrastructure for the event. The America’s Cup would not be able to go ahead unless these international syndicate teams are allowed entry into New Zealand. Approving these border exemptions allow the teams to start setting up their bases, and carry on key design and boat testing that can be progressed from our shores in New Zealand,” [Minister of Immigration] Phil Twyford said.

To streamline the process, decisions on Other Essential Workers requests under the new criteria will be made by Immigration NZ. We are introducing two distinct criteria depending on whether the work is short or long term.

Phil Twyford said the threshold for entry for Other Essential Workers remains very high. “Businesses should ensure no alternative options are available before applying.”

A win for NZ Marine

A statement by NZ Marine Industries Association who had been lobbying the Coalition Government confirmed the arrangement included Superyachts coming to New Zealand for refits.

Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford and Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway today announced some key changes to border restrictions including NZ Marine's request for commercial vessels and superyachts with maintenance and refit work to be allowed to enter NZ, the NZ Marine statement says.

A new maritime exception will allow entry to those arriving at maritime border, where there is a compelling need for the vessel to travel to New Zealand.

- Compelling needs include vessels to be delivered for refit and repair, responding to emergency and humanitarian situations, crew changes, discharge of catch or resupply.

- Most maritime journeys to New Zealand take more than 14 days so crew and others will self-isolate en-route, and won't impact New Zealand's quarantine capacity.

- All arriving vessels will still be monitored and public health measures may still be required, for example if the journey was shorter or there is illness on board.

- This exception will not apply to cruise ships, which remain prohibited from entering New Zealand territory, or people travelling for leisure. [This last requirement would appear to exclude superyacht owner's families and guests.]

A detailed explanation of the new restrictions have been published by NZ Marine who have been at the forefront of lobbying the Coalition Government to open the NZ border in a controlled way to ensure that New Zealand gets some benefit from the 2021 America's Cup. It is expected that today's announcement will ensure that about 60% of the pre-COVID19 benefit will be achieved.

In a written statement NZ Marine Executive Director Peter Busfield is appreciative of the Minister of Economic Development Hon Phil Twyford and Minister of Immigration Hon Iain Lees-Galloway listening to us and understanding the significant economic gain for the NZ marine industry, and country as a whole, from commercial vessels and superyachts being allowed to visit New Zealand for maintenance and refit purposes.

We thank the many marine industry companies, organisations and Government departments that assisted us in representing our case to Cabinet and gaining the above border exemptions. Particular thanks go to NZTE, Maritime New Zealand, MBIE, Ministry of Transport, Business New Zealand, Auckland Chamber of Commerce and Sir Ken Stevens.

Thousands of marine industry tradespeople refitting and maintaining visiting vessels, particularly in regions of Far North, Northland, Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Nelson, Marlborough and Lyttelton, can now be assured that business will be coming their way over the next few months.

Refit and servicing vessels contributes 25% of the $2 billion NZ marine industry and we now look forward to growing this important sector, Busfield said.

Not covered by the new provisions are America's Cup fans, media, sponsors, superyacht guests, sponsors and their VIP's and guests, trans-tasman yacht race crews participating in superyacht racing. America's Cup Youth teams are expected to be covered by the changes. Busfield confirmed that superyacht owners were considered to be part of the crew and would be allowed into New Zealand under the current restrictions.

It is expected that a further easing will be required in October to allow these groups into New Zealand - depending on how the latest amendments impact on the elimination of COVID-19.

Also coming into play in September is a trans-Tasman bubble which is expected to allow free travel and entry for Australia and New Zealand Residents - which may facilitate further exemptions.

The full Government statement can be read by clicking here.

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