Department of Internal Affairs apologies to thousands of Kiwis waiting for new passport

An official from the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) has apologised for the delay Kiwis are facing getting passports. 

DIA service delivery and operations deputy chief executive Maria Robertson told AM the current wait has risen from 10 days to 22 working days, but people should allow a calendar month for a new or renewed passport. They were hoping to get the wait back to 10 days by July. 

"I am really sorry people are having to wait and they have got delays but I also want to let people know we are very committed to getting this beautiful book into people's hands as quickly as possible," Robertson told AM host Ryan Bridge.  

Robertson said since the borders were closed during the COVID-19 pandemic around 640,000 passports expired. 

In that period around 250,000 were renewed, leaving over 400,000 Kiwis without valid passports. 

Now the borders are open many of those Kiwis are keen to head overseas and so the passport office has been inundated with requests.  

Robertson asked them to be patient, saying they have taken on extra staff and were working through the backlog. 

"We are saying allow a month, there are some compounding issues with couriers but we are saying please be patient and allow extra time for your passport," Robertson told AM.  

Bridge said AM had been inundated with emails from people complaining about not being able to get through to the passport call centre, or not having emails answered.  

She said the office was holding a super Saturday event this weekend, where staff including herself were working to answer phones. 

"Every day is a super day for us we have taken on a huge number of extra staff to deal with what is an unprecedented demand," Robertson said. 

COVID-19 has also played its part in the delays, with up to 40 percent of DIA staff off at times either isolating or with the virus. 

Robertson said for many working from home wasn't an option as there are strict privacy controls around the handling of passports and it wasn't the type of work you could do remotely.  

For Kiwis who need a passport urgently she said there was still a premium service for an extra cost, but otherwise everyone in the queue was being treated equally -  just allow more time.