The Government has intervened to allow Riff Raff into the country.
Immigration adviser Dion Smart has confirmed his client – The Rocky Horror Picture Show creator Richard O'Brien – was almost certainly getting New Zealand residency after Associate Immigration Minister Kate Wilkinson pledged to make an exception to the usual criteria.
Speaking from his London home, O'Brien said he would prefer to have his citizenship – another step up the ladder to becoming an official New Zealander – "rubber-stamped".
"I don't want anybody to think I'm grandstanding. All I wanted to do is belong. It's always been home. I feel a big swell of love and generosity of spirit all around me in New Zealand. I'm a peculiar-looking person. I'm a trannie – but I'm their trannie."
Ms Wilkinson was unable to comment on individual cases, but a spokesman said it was not uncommon for her to intervene in "special circumstances".
Mr Smart said O'Brien, 68, would still have to pass police and health checks, but Ms Wilkinson had said she would make exceptions on requirements for him to be 55 or under and have a job offer in New Zealand.
"It's not completely unusual but she is using her power as a minister to recognise the case is exceptional."
O'Brien, who lives in London, has been back to New Zealand regularly since the 1960s and wants to eventually retire to Katikati, north of Tauranga, where he has a 2 1/2-acre property. Two of his siblings live in Tauranga and his son lives in Wellington and is also applying for residency.
Born in Britain, O'Brien came to New Zealand as a 10-year-old with his family in 1952. He spent his teenage years and early 20s in Hamilton and Tauranga. He left in 1964 for London.
In 2004, he was honoured with a statue in Hamilton of his Rocky Horror character, the creepy butler Riff Raff, erected on the site of the barber shop where he worked before leaving for Britain.
Mr Smart said O'Brien's residency application should be processed in about a month, at which point his application for citizenship would be lodged.
Residency meant he could live in New Zealand but citizenship was needed to get a New Zealand passport and could be granted after five years. However, obtaining a passport was not his motivation, Mr Smart said.
O'Brien would retain a house in London and continue theatrical commitments in Europe.
An unofficial request had been made to Internal Affairs Minister Nathan Guy for an exception to citizenship criteria that applicants must have been a permanent resident here for at least five years. A spokesman said no official application had been made and no consideration given to the issue yet.
O'Brien, who has been asked to narrate a New Zealand tour of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in October, visited Katikati last year. "Please don't think I take any of this for granted. I think all of this is so wonderful."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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