Five-year passports frustrating, but vital - Key

Prime Minister John Key has rejected claims that New Zealand passports are too expensive, but admits Kiwis feel frustrated at having to renew theirs every five years.

The comments came as a new report showed New Zealand passports were the world's most expensive and that the Government was sitting on a $20.8 million surplus as a result of the fees.

Australia-based Kiwi Kyle Lockwood, 35, this year launched an online campaign for the return of 10-year passports years and today took the petition – signed by more than 12,000 people – to Parliament's government administration select committee.

Key said today that while having to renew passports every five years was "an annoyance" for people, their cost was competitive internationally.

"There is a convenience [issue] for people and it is an issue we constantly have a look at and see whether we are in the right place."

Extending passport eligibility was a security issue and official advice was that the period remain at five years, Key said.

"I can understand why people get frustrated, it's sort of annoying having to go and get a passport but I also understand the benefits of having the most up-to-date security."

Five-year passports were introduced in 2005, and the Department of Internal Affairs says this is in line with 140 other countries.

Taxpayers Union researcher Jordan McCluskey said that was untrue. Most developed countries issued 10-year passports.

The Government received more in passport fees than necessary to cover its costs. The account had been in surplus from 2001 – and had an excess of $20.8m, enough to cover 136,000 passports, he said.

The Government argues Kiwis are among the world's most frequent travellers, have visa-free access to more than 50 countries and five-year passports carry less risk of identity fraud. A shorter validity period allows officials to keep pace with new technology. Fees would also be high for a 10-year passport.

However, McCluskey said New Zealand's international trading partners were not "buckling under the pressure" for short passport validity.

"Individuals who are frequent travellers and would benefit from increased security could choose to update their passports as often as they wish in order to take advantage of any enhanced technology. There is no need to make this compulsory," McCluskey said.

"Canada, China and the Netherlands all recently increased their passport validities to 10 years," he added.

A new passport costs between $140 – for a standard 10-day service – to $650 for an after-hours appointment.