A former Immigration Minister says he would let Chris Brown into the country because it would cause no obvious harm.

Tuariki Delamere - who held the Cabinet role after the 1996 election - said: "If I was the minister I'd let him in. I don't see there is any harm or risk to New Zealand.

"I'm not sure why they are so worked up over Chris Brown," he said, pointing to other stars allowed into New Zealand with similar or worse convictions.

Questions have been raised over those cases since the Brown controversy. Motley Crue's Tommy Lee was jailed for six months in 1998 for an assault on former wife Pamela Anderson and has visited twice, while rapper Vanilla Ice pleaded guilty in 2001 after an altercation with his wife. He came to New Zealand a year ago.

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The cases don't appear to trigger the Immigration Act clauses for banning people - and neither does Brown's conviction for assaulting Rihanna.

The benchmark for banning under the current law is those people sent to prison for periods of a year or more in the past decade, or for longer than five years outside that time. Brown wasn't jailed for the Rihanna assault, but rather sentenced to five years' probation and six months of community service. Neither Tommy Lee nor Vanilla Ice reach the benchmark.

Instead, Brown would be excluded based on a section of the law that allows entry to be refused to anyone who has been excluded from another country. Brown was banned from the UK in 2010 after his conviction.

Mr Delamere said the section of the law that would be used to exclude Brown made no sense and needed changing. Since all Americans who visited Israel were banned from Iran, it would automatically exclude every such person from New Zealand.

He said as minister, he had faced pressure to ban Marilyn Manson; he had an appreciation of the political nature of such issues.

However, he said Associate Immigration Minister Craig Foss couldn't go wrong and would appear a "statesman" no matter which conclusion he reached.

These issues are wonderful issues. You can use it to advance your political profile. You can't really lose - not with this one.

Mr Foss' office said yesterday it held no records on any celebrities granted special exemptions under the Immigration Act.

Immigration NZ also said it didn't keep records which could be easily consulted and wasn't exactly sure how many special directions had been granted.

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It estimated about 1000 special requests had been considered in the past five years and slightly more than half were approved.

Brown's entry to Australia and New Zealand for his One Hell of a Nite Tour has caused controversy in both countries, even though he is yet to apply for permission to enter.

Australian politicians spoke of banning Brown because of his 2009 assault on Rihanna, his former partner, as they launched a campaign against domestic violence, prompting debate here.