Trans-Tasman visa 'in the spirit of ANZAC'

  • 26/04/2016

Tourism chiefs in New Zealand and in Australia are calling for a joint trans-Tasman visa, saying it could attract more than 140,000 more visitors every year.

A trial during the recent Cricket World Cup saw 7000 people with Australian visas also visit New Zealand.

Tourism Industry Association (TIA) chief executive Chris Roberts told Paul Henry this morning not all of them were here for the cricket.

"Forty percent of them were from China, not obviously a cricket-playing nation; they just took advantage understandably of an easier visa arrangement during that period."

Prime Minister John Key, in his capacity as Minister for Tourism, likes the idea. TIA and its Australian counterpart the Tourism & Transport Forum (TTF) have written to Peter Dutton, Australian Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, calling for a permanent trans-Tasman visa.

"Australia and New Zealand are long-haul destinations -- it makes a lot of sense for us to package the two countries together in a joint regional visa to prospective international tourists who are weighing up the long flight to our countries," says TFF chief executive Margy Osmond.

The Cricket World Cup trial was a one-way deal, however; while New Zealand accepted visitors with an Australian visa, the reverse wasn't the case.

"That's the hurdle we've got to overcome," says Mr Roberts. "To be fair, to be in the spirit of ANZAC, we'd like to see Australia accept those New Zealand visas -- we've done the screening, that we've accepted the person is of good repute and is able to come as a tourist, and Australia should let them in."

He says the UK and Ireland have a joint visa system, and 28 countries in Europe are able to coordinate their immigration and police agencies, so it shouldn't be too difficult for Australia and New Zealand to team up.

"If you were going to come this far, why wouldn't you tack on a visit across the Tasman to the other country while you're here?"

He dismisses concerns tourists would halve the amount of time spent in each country, if they were able to visit both on a single visa.

"We don't think it's going to lead to us losing out -- it just will grow the pie."

With a Lions rugby tour in 2017 and the 2018 Commonwealth Games being held on the Gold Coast, the tourism industry wants a trans-Tasman visa in place sooner rather than later.

"We may not get that by the end of the year, but we'd love to see an agreement by both countries to work towards that by the end of the year," says Mr Roberts.

A fall-back plan could be for New Zealand to welcome tourists to Australia, whether Australia lets our visitors in or not.

The TFF estimates a joint visa would increase the number of visitors to Australasia by 141,300 a year.