Wellington musician's bid to be Kiwi foiled
Phoenix Foundation member fights to be citizenTOM HUNT
The Government has flown him around the world to promote Kiwi culture but Phoenix Foundation's Will Ricketts may be denied New Zealand citizenship.
The popular Wellington band's co-writer, percussionist and keyboardist moved with his family from London to Wellington when he was aged 2.
But he was told by the Internal Affairs Department last week that it would recommend that its minister, Chris Tremain, deny his application for citizenship because he had spent too much time out of New Zealand.
Each time Ricketts has spent significant time outside New Zealand in the past five years, it has been to play with Phoenix Foundation. This has included gigs on the popular British television show, Later With Jools Holland, and the Glastonbury Festival.
The department's stance has been labelled by friend and Phoenix Foundation collaborator Taiki Waititi as "classic NZ hospitality".
Phoenix Foundation vocalist and guitarist Samuel Scott said time spent out of New Zealand was often with support from the New Zealand Music Commission, to showcase Kiwi music.
"I have known Will more than half my life and to think of him as anything other than a New Zealander seems absurd."
Ricketts has had New Zealand residency since emigrating from England in 1981.
"When I go to London, I miss Wellington. I miss the landscape. I miss my friends. I miss everything about being here and I feel like I'm an outsider when I go to London.
"The whole thing of being a New Zealander and not really being a New Zealander is upsetting."
Citizenship would make him legally a New Zealander and although he has residency status, his ability to live here depended on the whims of politics, he said.
When he visited the department on Thursday he was told he could pay $470 to put a case to the minister in favour of his application but the department would still fight it. He could reapply in another five years but would probably be in the same situation, as New Zealand bands were forced to work overseas to survive and Phoenix Foundation had a growing fan base in Europe.
His parents, Victoria University literature professor Harry Ricketts and Rita Ricketts, who now teaches economics at Cambridge University in England, have New Zealand citizenship.
A department spokesman could not comment but said recommendations were made to the minister on set criteria, including that applicants had to have spent 240 days in New Zealand for each of the past five years.
- The Dominion Post
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