WELLINGTON, June 4 (Reuters) - Decisions on travel ban exemptions being sought by visiting teams for next year’s America’s Cup in New Zealand will likely be made soon, though they will receive no special treatment, the government minister responsible for the event said on Thursday.
Team New Zealand are set to defend the trophy next March and challenging teams are unsure when they can send advance parties to Auckland to start preparations due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford said government officials were working closely with the challengers from Britain, Italy and the United States about receiving exemptions.
“I haven’t yet received the America’s Cup (applications),” Twyford told a parliamentary select committee on Thursday.
“I am informed by ... officials that they are working directly with America’s Cup teams on their applications so I would expect that it won’t be very long before it ends up on my desk.
“The government is very keen for the America’s Cup to go ahead next year and I have every belief that it will.
“I am aware that the challenger teams are keen to get into the country, get their personnel in and bases set up,” Twyford added.
“The America’s Cup applications ... won’t be treated any differently than anyone else.”
New Zealand’s tight border controls and a strict nationwide lockdown, which is being gradually eased, has seen the country virtually eliminate infections of the novel coronavirus, with only one active case and no new infections for the past 13 days.
Exemptions to the border controls — only returning citizens or permanent residents are currently allowed to enter New Zealand — require government approval.
Authorities approved the arrival of 54 people earlier this week to resume work on the Avatar 2 film.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford