Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has warned promoters not to sell tickets before booking spots in managed isolation for international acts, as The Wiggles face the prospect of disappointing thousands of Kiwi fans.
Live Nation, the company promoting the Australian children's entertainment group, started selling tickets in November to more than 20 concerts around New Zealand, with shows expected to start in mid-March this year.
But at the time Live Nation started selling the tickets, the group had not yet secured a border exemption to enter New Zealand, nor vouchers to stay at a managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facility.
The group were granted border exemptions on December 24 under the 'other critical worker' category, a month after sales had begun. But they now need to get around the hurdle of not having secured a space in MIQ.
"As I understand, The Wiggles have been granted the ability on the usual criteria that officials have used more generally for artists and entertainers," Ardern told reporters on Thursday.
"Only a small number have applied under who would be under that category of artists and entertainers outside of screen and television, and they're amongst those that have been approved," she said, adding that only about 65 have been approved.
"What's separate though is the process of quarantine. I would say to promoters who are bringing on performers into New Zealand, make sure you've booked your quarantine before you promote your dates. That would save issues."
Some shows have already sold out.
Live Nation said in a statement: "We are working closely with the relevant authorities on the logistics for The Wiggles Tour, and we’re looking forward to welcoming them to New Zealand."
Ardern acknowledged that tickets have been purchased by people at no fault of their own, and she said it's her expectation that officials will come up with a "practical" solution.
"It's for officials to work that through but there are people who have purchased tickets here, where despite errors having been made it's through no fault of their own, so obviously we have to find a practical way through this."
National MP Simon Bridges went into bat for the entertainers, tweeting that he had drafted a letter in support of the group, which has already sold around 40,000 tickets.
"The cast and crew have all approvals they need to come from Aussie, but due to visa delays the MIQ slots that were available, aren't anymore," he said on Twitter.
Bridges said he had to declare a conflict of interest in that his two older children have grown up "adoring" The Wiggles, and his youngest child - aged three - is "obsessed" with them and may go to their Tauranga concert if it goes ahead.
"I suspect any MP with kids under a certain age will have the same conflict," Bridges said.
Ardern said the criteria for exemption is based on the potential contribution to society, such as venue hire which leads to income for event companies and an overall flow-on effect.
"That decision's been made, obviously now promoters have made a mistake, they promoted dates before booking MIQ. Now we need to find a practical solution," she said.
"Something I think we should ask our officials to make sure of, is that when they are granting approvals for that entry, they are making it very clear that entry is not the same as a MIQ place. That may be something we need to clarify on our side."
In December, Ardern announced that a travel bubble with Australia could be in place from the first quarter of 2021, meaning Australians would not have to undergo 14 days of managed isolation upon arrival.
But the Government is yet to make any follow-up announcements, which Bridges alluded to in a follow-up tweet on Thursday afternoon.
"I dunno. Maybe the Wiggles made the mistake of believing Jacinda when she said we'd have a Trans-Tasman bubble in the first quarter."