ACT hits out at Government for letting Lion King crew into NZ 'while Kiwis wait’ for MIQ spots

Source: 1News

ACT leader David Seymour says there appears to be “no rhyme or reason” about who enters New Zealand as Covid-19 border restrictions continue. 

It comes as Disney’s Lion King stage show comes to Auckland for a number of performances in June. Its cast and crew are made up of 126 people of 16 nationalities. MIQ spots have been booked for the crew. The Michael Cassel Group is producing the show alongside Disney. 

“First it was special treatment for the Wiggles, now it’s the Lion King,” Seymour said. 

“Meanwhile MIQ is clogged to the gunwales leaving many New Zealanders who want to return home disappointed.”

Earlier this month, demand from people wanting to come to the country was so high it crashed the MIQ booking site

Seymour said there were numerous international productions in the country being supported by an almost 100 per cent local workforce of cast and crew, which would still help the local industry and free up spaces in MIQ. 

“Why weren’t the producers of the Lion King required to make similar arrangements if they wanted to stage their production here?

“This doesn’t add up and people are rightly upset at the arbitrary and unfair decisions being made about who can and can’t cross the border.”

Speaking on Breakfast earlier today, Live Nation's Asia Pacific chairman Michael Coppel said the show would generate more than 300 local jobs and encourage local tourism.

“A lot of companies that have been dormant for the last year will get work. [There will be] tens of millions of dollars of economic benefit for hospitality, accommodation, leisure.”

The show is also recruiting five young Kiwi performers, he added. 

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said the decision was made by officials, and the show met the criteria for delivering economic benefits to New Zealand.

Faafoi said out of the more than 6500 people granted an exception to enter New Zealand on an exceptional worker visa, only a “small” number were entertainers. 

He said most people who entered the country on the visa were highly-skilled researchers, technology specialists and primary industry workers. 

Entertainers that had entered the country amid the pandemic included The Wiggles and RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under. But those productions had less than 20 people each. 

‘Surely the same could be done for an industry that is vital’ 

Meanwhile, an industry body for commercial ski areas has today sent the Government an urgent appeal to bring critical international workers into New Zealand ahead of the winter ski season. 

The Ski Areas Association of New Zealand said highly-specialised roles, like ski patrols, instructors, lift technicians and snow groomers would be essential for the safe operation of ski areas. The roles would typically be filled by seasonal workers who travelled between hemispheres. 

Bridget Legnavsky of Cardrona Alpine Resort and Treble Cone ski areas said they needed the visas as soon as possible so it could book MIQ places. 

“We’re not talking huge numbers of international workers – getting 100 highly-skilled staff across the border will enable Kiwi ski areas to operate,” she said.

“If we can get film crews, entertainers and sporting teams into New Zealand, surely the same could be done for an industry that is vital for recovery in their surrounding communities.”