‘Priorities out of whack’ – Hundreds of ‘dependents’ of America’s Cup workers get visas to NZ

More than 700 foreign citizens have been given the all clear to enter New Zealand since our borders were closed, because of the visitors’ connection with the America’s Cup – including at least 200 dependents.

It is likely that around half of the 753 visas Immigration NZ have granted under a variety of “critical worker” categories for the Auckland event could be family members of Cup workers.

What roles the 753 people provide at the America’s Cup is unclear, but a substantial portion of them are not directly involved with racing.

Applications for a variety of roles are understood to have been – and continue to be – made by the three international America’s Cup teams.

For example, executives of the companies that sponsor the teams have been let into New Zealand, such as Ineos chemical group director Andrew Currie.

Some of the owners of the syndicates, including Ineos founder Jim Ratcliffe of Team UK and Amway chairman, Doug DeVos, who co-owns American Magic have also used their visas to enter New Zealand.

At the other end of the scale, Italian team Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli were declined two hospitality managers they applied for as critical workers.

Immigration NZ has only declined 40 visas related to the America’s Cup.

The Herald obtained the numbers via the think tank NZ Initiative’s chief economist Dr Eric Crampton – who requested the numbers from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment via the Official Information Act.

“Priority at the border has been and should be returning Kiwis. The Government consequently reserves only a small number of spaces for workers essential to a wide variety of industry and business needs,” Crampton wrote in the NZ Initiative’s weekly newsletter, Insights.

“Taking up hundreds of MIQ spaces for what is fundamentally a large government project – a boat race that would not be occurring in the absence of some quarter of a billion dollars in public funding – means fewer spaces are available for workers critically important for other projects.

“Prioritising the entry of hundreds of dependents of boat race workers, over workers already here [who want to bring in their families], suggests the Government’s priorities are out of whack.”

Immigration NZ granted a total of 543 workers and 524 dependents exceptions to New Zealand’s border closure, and invited them to apply as “critical workers” – which is a separate process.

Of those 1067 border exemptions, 753 were successful in their visa application, 40 unsuccessful and 16 still waiting for a decision.

This means that even if all the people who failed to apply for visas were dependents, at least 200-odd of the successful 753 must be dependents.

A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi Minister said the Government and Auckland Council made significant commitments and investments in building infrastructure for the Cup.

“The America’s Cup would not be able to go ahead unless these international syndicate teams are allowed entry into New Zealand.

So far, over 105,000 people have entered New Zealand and gone through Managed Isolation and Quarantine. The America’s Cup represents about 0.7 per cent of entrants through our MIQ system.”

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