16 Aug 2002

PNG church official says NZ visa policy is possibly racist

4:06 pm on 16 August 2002

An official with the Catholic Church in Papua New Guinea says New Zealand's transit policies for some travellers are strange and possibly racist.

In April, New Zealand extended transit visa requirements as part of its policy to combat terrorism and citizens from most Pacific nations changing planes in Auckland now need a visa.

The secretary of the PNG Catholic Bishops Conference, Lawrence Stephens, says he is mystified at what he sees as a prohibitive charge for a delegation planning to attend the Pacific Council of Churches meeting in Rarotonga.

He says he had encountered this sort of treatment with Australia but not New Zealand.

"if you happen to come from a country visa-free, in other words generally a white or rich, country, a long way away from Australia or now apparently New Zealand, you simply arrive and go straight through. If you happen to be a neighbour from a non-white country then you find that you have to go through all sorts of restrictions on your movement."

Lawrence Stephens.

New Zealand Immigration charges Papua New Guineans the maximum rate of 270 kina or nearly 70 US dollars for the visas, despite an allowance for a Pacific rate, which is 40 percent cheaper.