Wayne Thompson

Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Visa move baits hook for top acts

Immigration frees up entertainers’ entry from November, making country more attractive as tour destination.

Bruce Springsteen.
Bruce Springsteen.

Kiwi music lovers could be in for more big name international acts under new visa laws due to come into force in November, a tourism body says.

The Tourism Industry Association says the new visa rules for top performers and their support crews will also boost the economy.

The change in regulations would allow top acts to travel and perform in New Zealand on visitor visas instead of work visas, provided they were promoted by a New Zealand company - meaning more top acts would be attracted to our shores, the association said.

Show promoters agree, saying that having to get work visas for individual performers and support crews in a show is costly and time-consuming.

The association's hotel sector manager Sally Attfield said it lobbied for the change in Immigration New Zealand rules because music events could create a demand for accommodation and other services in off-seasons at what was a typically quiet time of the year for tourism businesses.

In addition to hotels, top artists and their entourages brought in business for restaurants, bars and retailers.

"This will help whether it's a first-time to New Zealand act or not because it cuts the red tape," said Dave Munro, tour co-ordinator for the Frontier Touring Company, which last year brought out Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, and is due to bring the Rolling Stones in November.

Mr Munro said the present work visa rules meant members had to relinquish their passports for seven to 10 days, which was difficult to arrange when bands were on the move across countries and playing a different city every day.

"This change does make New Zealand more attractive to the artist because there is a visa charge per person and with a tour party of 150 people the money adds up."

Mr Munro said he could not recall any bands not coming to New Zealand because of the work visa requirement.

But there had been some "close calls" when visas had still not been granted a week before bands came into the country.

Robyn Alexander, of Pacific Entertainment, which recently brought out acts such as Billy Connolly, the Hollies and Air Supply, said the change "will make the whole process significantly easier".

She could not recall any acts she negotiated which were denied a work visa.

Ms Alexander said the industry was helped a lot by a 2012 streamlining of the process for entry to New Zealand.

This dropped a requirement for a work visa application to be open to industry-led market testing, if the visa was for 14 days or less.

Previously, all visas for working at a specific event could be objected to by music, screen and enter-tainment industry professional groups.

Stars' visa rules
Present: Work visa required for each artist and crew doing the show.
Change: Visitor visa required instead of work visa - if promoted by a local company.

- NZ Herald

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