A tax levy introduced last year on visitors entering New Zealand to help fund tourism infrastructure is under scrutiny as the $35.00 International Visitor Levy is also being collected from people who never set foot in the country. Foreigners denied visitor visas here are automatically charged the levy, with some calling it theft.
Already close to a million dollars has been covertly collected in just six months. The levy is effectively a tax on tourists to help pay for tourism and conservation infrastructure improvements. But the problem is those who apply to come here as visitors but are turned down are also paying. The levy was introduced last July and figures obtained show in the first six months to December almost 285,000 thousand visitor visa applications were lodged with Immigration New Zealand but more than 24,000 of those were declined. Still, they were charged the $35.00 levy meaning the government pocketed more than $850,000 from people who'll never set foot on Kiwi soil.
Robyn Kurth and her group of friends attempted to bring out two Ethiopian guides to New Zealand as visitors but they were refused entry. She says the Government taking the fee from them amounts to theft. “So where's the $35.00? I want it back,” she says. “It can't be charged to people who are not coming here. How can we charge them if they're not actually going to use the facilities?” Immigration lawyer Ramya Sathiyanathan calls it deception. She says the online application is far from clear about the levy. “It's hidden, I presume quite intentionally in the online application form and it's only when you print a receipt you see it's been taken as part of the overall fee,” she says. The ministry says collecting the levy at time of application keeps admin costs down and confirms there is no provision for refunds. “What I think is important is that it's clear to people up front is that that fee is non-refundable and I think that's something that immigration New Zealand needs to deal with and i understand that they are.
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With everyone staying home, it’s now more important than ever for everyone to be fire-safe. People can find information on our website - fireandemergency.nz...
We’re heading into winter, and with households self-isolating together, there’ll be more cooking at home, and more use of open fires, heaters, and dryers - all things which can increase fire risk.
New Zealanders can be confident that Fire and Emergency is well-prepared and ready to respond to emergencies as usual during the nationwide self- isolation period.
Please call 111 if you have a fire, we will ask you whether anyone at the address is self-isolating or has a confirmed case of COVID-19. Where this is the case, we already have necessary measures in place to ensure everyone’s safety including protective clothing, gloves, masks, safety glasses and mask.
Losing someone to death is hard enough. But losing someone during a lockdown - when funerals are banned and not even a hug is allowed - would arguably be even more heartbreaking. The Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand has come forward with a special Covid-19 resource for families who will experience the death of a loved one in the next four weeks and what they can do to help in the grieving process.
Association president Gary Taylor said it was in support of bereaved families who felt extremely distressed that they could not hold a funeral, tangi or any other kind of gathering for their lost loved one. "It offers ideas gathered in from Kiwis from right around New Zealand who understand grief and recognise how painful this Covid-19 situation must be for anyone grieving a loved one's death," he said. "Our funeral directors are feeling deep concern for bereaved families and are totally committed to supporting them as best they can in this unprecedented time." In the resource, people are encouraged to speak to the funeral director who is caring for their relative; or speak with a cultural leader, church minister or priest, rabbi, Muslim cleric or other religious leader they are comfortable with. People are being told that they will have to delay any funeral or memorial service for at least the period of the four-week lockdown. Instead of a funeral service, FDANZ suggests connecting with other relatives and friends via technology - whether it be video-calling via Skype or Facetime or email and a simple phone call. Even Facebook makes the list - with the suggestion for a grieving family to make up a dedicated page where loved ones can post special memories, videos or photos of the person who has died. Eulogies could also be written via a digital memorial guest book set up by the funeral director or making up a photo board or wall in the house. Another suggestion is to publish a notice in the newspaper and including a special request to those who knew their loved one. "Perhaps make it longer by saying some of the things you loved about them and asking people to take the time to remember them at a certain time. "For example: 'Please take the time to remember [name] and the wonderful person she/he was on Friday at 3pm and pray a prayer of thanksgiving/light a candle/raise a glass/have a cup of tea in her/his honour." The FDANZ also acknowledges that there will be people who still need extra support during this time. Anyone who feels that way can call the Grief Centre about phone support services available during weekday hours on (09) 418 1457 or 0800 331 333.