Winston Peters has a point …
As a past-Tauranga local, these are five words I thought I would never utter. But when it comes to the cost of a passport in New Zealand I tend to share his view.
Mr Peters said recently that the cost of New Zealand passports is a “rip-off” compared with many other countries.
In 2005, the fee increased from $71. Today it costs an adult $153.30 for a new passport and a child’s passport is $81.70*. For our family, that sets us back $470. Sheez.
The cost isn’t really the thing that irks me though. I get that improving the security of our passports comes at a cost, and the introduction of ePassports and the innovative SmartGate system has been a timesaver.
However, at the same time of increasing the cost, the validity of our passports dropped from 10 years to five. Again, I kind of get this for kids. They change so much, especially if they get a passport as a baby.
But the thing that gets me hot under the collar is our little official blue travel books are really only valid for four years and six months, as most countries require a passport to have six months remaining on them to allow entry. In other words, we’re paying for the same six months twice … hmmm. Doesn’t quite seem fair, but it’s the case the world over.
I was stung by this wee fact the other month when arranging a relatively last minute work trip to Singapore. With five months left on my passport I had to fork out for a new one (paying for the urgent service no less) to travel there, or risk being turned away at check-in – and quickly. I was travelling in about 48 hours.
My saving grace was the efficient and incredibly helpful people at the Department of Internal Affairs. Ordinarily it can take up to three days for an urgent passport, but the good folks at the DIA turned it around in a matter of hours. My feeling of relief (along with the joy of three marriages performed and several nervous immigration interviews conducted around me in the DIA office) was palpable.
At a time when the Government is cutting back on public servants, it was pleasing to experience great service in action from a government department.
I made my trip. Others I know haven’t been so lucky and have been left high and dry by the significantly shortened passport expiration.
So I say, keep up the pressure Mr Peters … and check your passport people!
* Passport fees are due to be reviewed next year and the Department of Internal Affairs has indicated costs will go down after the costs of the changes are recovered.