America's Cup

Border tipped to open for America’s Cup sailors

A Government okay for foreign crews to come here to train is likely shortly, Auckland's Mayor says

America's Cup teams' hopes of winning border exemptions to get their crews to Auckland to prepare for next summer's big event should be met soon - with applications under consideration by officials and former Team NZ skipper Dean Barker lobbying hard with the immigration minister.

The Cup crews are in limbo overseas waiting for the Government to let them through our Covid-19 closed borders, but 56 film staff for the international production of the movie Avatar have already arrived in Wellington from the United States after winning exemptions.

In Parliament on Tuesday the Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford revealed he had approved 201 border exemptions so far for essential workers and a total of 2354 people had been granted entry since the borders closed, mainly for family or humanitarian reasons.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, pressed by National's Stuart Smith, told the House the Ministry of Business Innovation and Enterprise (MBIE) was currently working through applications from America's Cup teams for their people to likewise be granted essential worker exemptions.

He said he had been in "regular correspondence with Dean Barker as head of the America Magic syndicate [over] travel to New Zealand for the America's Cup" and had a video conference call with him on the matter.

Smith asked if exemptions would be granted in time for teams to be in Auckland by mid-June, as sought.

Lees-Galloway said. "America's Cup teams are well aware of the process and applications have been lodged with MBIE."

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff told Newsroom: "I think the Government will make a decision shortly in allowing the crews here."

The summer's Cup season was set to start with a pre-Christmas series, before the Prada Cup challengers series beginning in January and the Cup proper between the triumphant challenger and Team NZ in March.

Auckland Council's spending on the Cup facilities -  including building out Hobson Wharf and clearing tank farm land in the Wynyard Quarter - had been completed, Goff said.

Preparations for the event, a centrepiece of a big 2021 planned for Auckland, which at this point still includes sports world cups and the Apec leaders meeting, had been on track before the global convulsions set off by the Covid-19 spread, and international border, sports and community lockdowns.

The sites for bases for the three challenging teams were completed ahead of schedule and within budget by the alliance established by the Government and Auckland Council to build the America's Cup Village near the old Tank Farm at Wynyard Point. The Challenger of Record, Luna Rossa's base is near the Maritime Museum on Hobson Wharf.

Withdrawals from the initial list of potential challengers means there were additional base sites available to the Cup event organisers. One is expected to be used for event operations.

Goff was concerned Auckland might not now reap some of the economic benefits of holding the Cup.

"The heartbreak is some of the associated benefits, we will be losing.  We could still race. Team New Zealand could still win. But the real question is will we get the bonuses that the super yachts would have spent here and the high amount of money the tourists would have spent here?

"Hopefully by December we might be able to deal with that in a different way."

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