A would-be tourist says his plan for a "once-in-a-lifetime" trip to New Zealand has been turned into a "$9000 nightmare" because of the new visa rules.

The New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA) introduced on October 1 last year required those from visa waiver countries to have an approved NZeTA before they enter New Zealand.

Jean Van Wyngaardt, who is supposed to arrive in New Zealand on January 16, said he felt confident he qualified for the NZeTA because he is a permanent resident of UK, a visa waiver country, even though he holds a South African passport.

He is travelling with his partner Kasia Luzynska, from Poland, who definitely qualifies because Poland is one of the 60 visa waiver countries listed on Immigration NZ's website.

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"The NZeTA visa waiver page states you can apply for the NZeTA if you have the right to reside permanently in the UK. As it turns out, only applies to UK passport holders, which is incredibly ambiguous. I mean, why would a UK passport holder not have the right to reside in the UK?" He wrote.

"The way this is worded is not how it should be interpreted."

Van Wyngaardt said when he called the INZ call centre, it took a 30 minutes back and forth conversation and was put on hold for the support team to clarify because even they were not sure.

"On the visa waiver countries and territories page, it states that an NZeTA must be requested before travelling if 'you travel on a passport from a country on the list of visa waiver countries and territories'," he said.

"However, the list includes additional information next to some of the countries, implying special conditions. Any reasonable person would conclude that a UK permanent resident fits this criteria, but as it turns out - the information is misleading."

After finding out he didn't qualify for the NZeTA on December 5, he applied for a visitor visa.

The website says 90 per cent of applications were processed within 30 days, but 32-days later and less than a week before they are set to fly out of London, he still hasn't received a confirmation.

Van Wyngaardt is worried that he will be stranded in Singapore, where the couple are supposed to spend a couple of days before New Zealand, while Luzynska travels on without him.

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They have already spent $9000 on their trip, and he fears this could escalate if he did not receive his visa before his flight leaves Singapore on Jan 15.

"It's likely I will be left stranded in Singapore while my partner goes on ahead to NZ with the planned trip," he said.

"At best, I might be able to afford to stay in Singapore for a few days hoping to get a visa approved, but ultimately, I might be headed home early."

Immigration New Zealand acting deputy chief executive Catriona Robinson told Stuff more than 850,000 NZeTAs had been issued since their introduction.

"There was approximately 164,000 travellers expected in New Zealand in November who would require an NZeTA so the number that has been issued demonstrates there is high traveller awareness and compliance. As well as global advertising, INZ worked closely with airlines and the travel industry to ensure traveller awareness and compliance. Staff were also stationed at major airports in the days following the introduction to help those caught out."

She said Van Wyngaardt required a visitor visa because he was not a citizen of the UK or travelling on a UK passport.

"The website is clear that the NZeTA is available for people who "travel on a passport from a country on the list of visa waiver countries and territories".