Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Nigella's visa clearance for new choc ad worries Labour

Labour's Immigration spokesman Rajen Prasad says he would be concerned if British television cook Nigella Lawson was given an exemption to come to New Zealand solely because of her celebrity status while other cases of people in more need were being rejected.

Immigration New Zealand has given Ms Lawson special permission to visit New Zealand next month after the United States refused her entry earlier this year because she had confirmed during a trial against two of her former staff that she had taken cocaine.

Although she had no convictions, Ms Lawson was ineligible for a visa because the United States had refused entry, so a discretionary 'special direction' was required for her to enter New Zealand in May to film another advertisement for Whittakers chocolate.

Mr Prasad said as a general rule he did not believe people who abused drugs should be allowed in to New Zealand but there should be discretion to allow it in special circumstances.

"I think people who abuse drugs ought to be banned from coming to New Zealand. We have major drug problems in New Zealand and don't want others to come here with that habit making our job more difficult. But there will be cases where there are special circumstances that can be considered and I support the ability for out protocols and systems to have that discretion."

He assumed Immigration NZ gave it careful consideration and did not have a problem with Ms Lawson's approval if that was the case.

"I hope it's not simply because been given because Nigella is a celebrity, and she was subject to the same rules as others are. But if special circumstances are present, I accept that."

His main concern was over consistency in applying exemptions to visa requirements, saying Immigration ministers had refused to intervene in the case of Fijian Sunal Kumar, 30, who needs a kidney transplant, has raised the money and found a donor but has been told to return to Fiji by Thursday or be deported.

"Here is a life or death situation and you might have hoped, given it is at no cost to the state, for some compassion but the minister refuses to intervene. Where is the consistency?"

Associate Immigration Minister Nikki Kaye said she could not comment on the individual circumstances in each case.

"Generally, I think it is unhelpful to compare cases as each case will involve different circumstances and information that will be weighed up in the decision making process."

She said ministers were not involved in the decision on Nigella Lawson. That decision was made by officials rather than ministers because involved a temporary visa.

Ministers are usually only involved in exercising the discretion in cases where residency is an issue.

Immigration NZ would not say what specific issues they had considered in making the decision relating to Ms Lawson.

- NZ Herald

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