Minister unmoved by 10-year passport plea

RACHEL YOUNG
Last updated 05:00 20/01/2013
Chris Tremain
FRANK TALK: Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain.

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An online campaign backed by thousands of Kiwis to again make passports valid for 10 years will fail.

However, Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain has agreed to look at ways of ensuring New Zealanders get the full five-year value from their passports.

In November 2005, the Government introduced passports that were valid for five years instead of 10.

Tremain said the five-year validity was more secure and convenient because new features could be added more regularly.

"It provides New Zealand with a state-of-the-art passport allowing maximum security features and an ability to revamp passport stock with new features in a relatively short time frame," he said.

There has been growing concern online about the validity being effectively four-and-a-half years as most countries need passports to be valid for at least six months upon entry.

Australian-based New Zealander Kyle Lockwood set up a Facebook page called "Bring back 10 year validity on NZ passports" this month, which has attracted nearly 8000 "likes".

The former Wellingtonian launched the page after seeing an upset mother and son at Melbourne Airport who were refused travel because the mother's five-year-passport had less than six months' validity left.

While people should always check their passports, he suspected many people would not think about it.

The 35-year-old said Canada was upgrading to a biometric passport similar to New Zealand's this year, but it would not reduce its validity to five years.

"If a country like Canada is confident that the security of its biometric passports can last 10 years, I see no reason why New Zealand cannot have a 10-year passport option - an option enjoyed by many of our major trading partners, including the US, the UK, China and Australia." He hoped the 10-year-passport, would be reintroduced but Tremain said this would not happen.

However, he had listened to concerns about the validity length and had taken "steps to address this situation".

"I signed off on a paper before Christmas which I will take to Cabinet in the first month of the new year, the aim of which is to ensure Kiwis get the full five-year value from their passport."

Tremain said 77 per cent of countries that followed International Civil Aviation Organisation protocol had five-year passports.

Lockwood plans to continue fighting for the 10-year passport.

"The Government is reviewing passport validity, and once we have a larger number of like-minded Kiwis supporting a return to 10-year passport validity we intend to pressure the Government to at least consider a 10-year passport as part of the review," he said.

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The Department of Internal Affairs says 2.49 million adult five-year passports have been issued since November 4, 2005, while just over 500,000 10-year passports remain in circulation.

- Sunday Star Times

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