"The New Zealand Cruise Association (NZCA) is shocked and quite simply bewildered to see that at the very last minute Immigration NZ has chosen to prevent the Ponant ship Le Laperouse from coming to New Zealand despite having the green light from the Ministry of Health. The New Zealand Government (through the Ministry of Health) granted an exemption last December to permit the ship to operate domestically in New Zealand, carrying a maximum of 100 passengers.
At the extremely last minute, Immigration NZ has now denied entry for some of the ship’s crew who they have deemed to be non-essential. NZCA believes that all the ship’s crew are essential to its operation and they cannot be replaced by New Zealanders in such a short time.
"It is a case of one Ministry giving and another taking away. Government departments must begin to talk to each other, not take separate action which once again greatly harms the tourism industry," said NZCA Chief Executive Officer Kevin O’Sullivan.
The Minister of Immigration has tried to paint the decision as the fault of Ponant for not following procedure, but it is not so.
As soon as the exemption was granted Ponant provided information to Immigration NZ on visa requirements for the ship’s crew, giving ample time for a response and following up with an application when they had assembled the information requested more than three weeks ago. They did everything that was requested by the New Zealand Government in order to offer safe domestic cruising in New Zealand.
To comply with COVID-19 requirements to isolate crew, the ship has been slow steaming from its last port, testing everyone on board regularly. Le Laperouse was due in Auckland tomorrow for fuelling, maintenance work and New Zealand COVID-19 testing, with the first voyage beginning 8 February.
This is a significant and devastating blow to the New Zealand tourism industry and to all those businesses that were relying on this one cruise ship to bring them some small glimmer of hope in the resurgence of regional cruise tourism. Of course, the 700 Kiwi guests who had planned on enjoying a voyage will be most upset too.
This decision by Immigration NZ tarnishes New Zealand as a cruise friendly destination, undoing years of hard work. It is quite simply not good enough."