The great China Southern Airlines beatup

November 16th, 2012 at 9:15 am by David Farrar

A typical story on this issue has been this Stuff one:

 SkyCity boasted about bringing high-rolling gamblers to New Zealand aboard China Southern Airlines through a fast-tracked visa process a year before New Zealand recommended that the Government sign a deal with the carrier.

Immigration Minister Nathan Guy was this week forced to reveal an agreement with the airline, which comes into effect next week, for its gold and silver frequent-flier cardholders to skip normal border checks after leaked documents were released by NZ First leader Winston Peters. …

Mr Peters said yesterday that SkyCity had been pushing for the scheme for years. “Their high-rollers already operate under these new rules, which means a casino and a communist government airline have under [Mr Guy's] deal with them, now acquired privileges for their customers not available to any other group of people anywhere else in the world.”

Police listed common offences by Asian crime syndicates as extortion, drug trafficking, identity fraud and people smuggling, he told Parliament.

This story may be the biggest beat up of the year. The seemed to have gone out of their way to be as non-specific as possible as to what has been agreed, because the truth is boringly mundane. Here are the facts.

  • This agreement has nothing to do with anyone in China getting a work visa, a residency visa, a long-term visa or even citizenship (apply via Dover Samuels). It is purely about being able to visit New Zealand temporarily.
  • 57 countries can have their citizens visit New Zealand without any visa at all. So what Peters say about privileges not available to any other group of people in the world is absolute nonsense. If you are a citizen of any of those 57 countries you can visit NZ without even needing a visa so long as you are not a criminal or been deported from another country
  • Those countries for which we require a visa, tend to be relatively poor countries. We do not allow unrestricted visiting rights because of the well documented risk that they then become overstayers, illegal immigrants etc as the standard of living in NZ is much higher than those countries.
  • So Chinese citizens need to get a visa to come here.  To get a visa they need to provide the following:
    • Proof of good health
    • Proof of good character
    • A proper purpose for visiting
    • Proof they plan to leave
    • Proof of funds to cover stay in NZ ($1,000/mth), and departure
    • Not have a serious criminal record
  • The application form for a visa is 16 pages long. A China Southern Airlines frequent flyer still has to fill in the entire 16 page form.
  • As I understand it, the only “variation” is that their status with China Southern Airlines is taken as proof of sufficient funds rather than have to provide certified copies of bank statements, letters of credit etc. Now considering that you have to have flown around the world at least twice in the last year to get frequent flyer status, then it is not a bad assumption that they have funds in excess of $1,000 a month!
  • That’s it. That’s what this is all about. A decision that proof you have flown twice around the world recently is a good proxy for you have sufficient funds to cover your expenses while in NZ.

So, an absolute beatup. And also consider that if you are visiting from say Mexico or Taiwan you don’t even need proof of funds, as we assume all citizens of those countries have sufficient funds to be allowed to visit NZ.

As I understand it, the initial concern by someone in DIA was based on thinking there was going to be a general visa waiver or the like. There is not. The ONLY thing agreed to here is that proof you fly so often to get frequent flyer status is acceptable proof that  you have funds in excess of $1,000 a month!

Sky City has not engaged with the Government at all on the South China Airlines arrangement, according to both them and the Government. They support it, as it makes it easier for high rollers (who are in no way exempt the good character test) to avoid the hassle of proving they have NZ$3,000 (when in fact they have several million dollars) each time they visit. These high rollers then spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in New Zealand, boosting the tourism sector and tax revenues.

Again, an absolute beat up of a story. What annoys me is that the media could have made clear in their stories that the so called “skipping border checks” is no such thing. They get treated no differently at the border. They still need a visa in advance. The only difference is what document they have to supply in advance with their visa application – proof of frequent flyer status rather than proof of funds. But that isn’t as sexy a story.

This is in fact a very smart arrangement. South China Airlines is the third largest in the world. It means they will promote NZ as a destination to their customers on our behalf. The Tourism Industry Association thinks it is great. It doesn’t mean a single person will be allowed to visit, who doesn’t fully meet the rules. It is simply saying that you can use a frequent flyer status as proof of funds, rather than a bank statement.

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34 Responses to “The great China Southern Airlines beatup”

  1. peteremcc (341 comments) says:

    Sorry, you expected journalists to actually do some research instead of just writing whatever Winston said?

    Hahahahahahahahahahahaha.

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  2. Graeme Edgeler (3,220 comments) says:

    Here are the facts.

    … citizenship (apply via Dover Samuels).

    Facts?

    [DPF: Heh, I think people could tell that was more a comment. Mind you it is a fact he has a good success reccord!]

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  3. wreck1080 (3,523 comments) says:

    I did find this story a little boring too.

    Yet, it will mainly target wealthy chinese though — whom I presume have an army of peasants to do this admin work for them right?

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  4. projectman (190 comments) says:

    The definition (#4) at dictionary.com seems entirely appropriate in this case (as in many others):

    “4. writing that reflects superficial thought and research, a popular slant, and hurried composition, conceived of as exemplifying topical newspaper or popular magazine writing as distinguished from scholarly writing”.

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  5. Nigel (503 comments) says:

    Wow, normally I take MSM bashing with a pretty large dose of salt, I’ve worked in it & from what I’ve seen generally fair.

    But this is a shocker I have to say, the lack of any investigation in the article is appalling & Danya Levy should go to journalism school ( can’t believe she ever went ).

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  6. OTGO (457 comments) says:

    So a whole plane load of Chinese men come out to clean, green, beautiful NZ and sit inside a windowless casino all day. Velly strange race those Chinese fellas.

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  7. Philonz (89 comments) says:

    I can’t imagine the other airlines that fly this route are particularly happy about the Govt favouring one over another. Air NZ must be furious.

    [DPF: I doubt it. Air NZ frequent flyers do not tend to need a visa to visit New Zealand. They tend to be New Zealanders!]

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  8. Nigel (503 comments) says:

    Philonz, why would AirNZ be furious, I’d think they’d be happy as, because they can go to immigration asking for the same deal, I mean you already get special treatment if you fly business/gold, it’s merely a tweak of that process.

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  9. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    Philonz – I agree, it’s a shabby deal. There should be a level playing for all passengers on all airlines travelling to and from China.

    If a private airline decides to do some paper work on behalf of its frequent flyers, so be it. But a government can’t sanction special treatment at a boarder for a one set of travellers over others.

    [DPF: You don't travel much do you? first of all there is no different treatment at the border. This is about what you attach to your visa application in advance.

    Secondly ever noted the priority lines at immigration for Air NZ frequent flyers?]

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  10. RRM (8,988 comments) says:

    Thanks for posting this up DPF… I had idly wondered, as I read this article on Stuff, what the actual problem was….

    (If for some odd reason anyone wants to spend a whole day on a plane flying to Auckland just so that they can blow their load (of spare cash!) at sky shitty casino, then more fool them in my book, but welcome welcome!! )

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  11. Philonz (89 comments) says:

    The Minister has said they’ll wait until they see how this deal goes before deciding on its future. Meanwhile China Southern get special treatment while the competitors don’t. Surely if you are confident in the scheme you roll it out to all qualifying airlines or to none at all.

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  12. flipper (3,270 comments) says:

    Nigel, dear fellow….
    You are joking, are you not?

    I have also worked in the New Zealand MSM, both nation-wide print and electronic, at Editor level.
    In 2012, half-ass trained children (and adults) get a piece of paper that says they are “journalists”. At Columbia, NY, I saw bias beaten out of some journalism students. But those same folk never changed their core beliefs.

    The problem with Fairfax, APNZ, red radio and the TV channel employees is that there is no one person ( or core of folk) with the intestinal fortitude to kick the left (when needed) and the right (when needed).

    In so far as political balance is concerned, Fairfax is in a state of fundamental , left wing disequilibrium. The sooner Fairfax folds (and it is likely to fold sooner than later), the better.
    Good morning .

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  13. RRM (8,988 comments) says:

    Wow, “at Editor level” in national newspapers? And it seems like only yesterday you were saying you are a top geologist at GNS.

    I’m impressed flipper, you should think about challenging Key for the PM job!

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  14. davidp (3,320 comments) says:

    I watched question time yesterday. Peters seemed to be upset that a large group (250?) of visiting Chinese travel agents might be given similar “special” treatment. I realise that Peters needs to compete with the Greens for the anti-Asian vote these days, but takes a special kind of nasty and stupid to oppose people who will market NZ overseas and benefit our tourist sector.

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  15. bhudson (4,720 comments) says:

    But a government can’t sanction special treatment at a boarder for a one set of travellers over others.

    Shall we let Nathan Guy know that he needs to pull the Smart Gates out and get rid of the NZ/Aus passport only queues then?

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  16. Keeping Stock (9,789 comments) says:

    Winston Peters at the centre of a media beat-up; who would have ever thunk it?

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  17. peterwn (2,935 comments) says:

    But the idea og facilitating the evtry of rich Chinese into NZ goes against all the principles and concepts of ‘social justice’ and ‘equality’.

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  18. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    DPF – I believe there is different treatment at the boarder for frequent flyers. For example, at Auckland International Airport, Air NZ Koru, Gold and Gold Elite members enter a special check-in area. From the check-in area, you proceed up a special lift to the customs area. At the customs area, there is a special line with one or two customs officers present to process you.

    In my view this is problematic. In a capitalist society, it is normal to expect that airlines will have special check-in lines or areas for their frequent flyers. But what happens at Auckland International Airport is that zone is proceeded by a special government controlled area for the same passengers. This is where the confusion between Air NZ as a business and government occurs.

    About five years ago there was another example at Auckland International Airport that has now ceased after its renovation. If you purchased duty free goods, you were given a voucher to enter NZ’s boarders upstairs instead of downstairs where most of the counters were located.

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  19. bhudson (4,720 comments) says:

    If you purchased duty free goods, you were given a voucher to enter NZ’s boarders upstairs instead of downstairs where most of the counters were located.

    I used that several times in the early 00′s – You didn’t have to have a voucher, nor purchase goods at the duty free store to use that immigration point.

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  20. flipper (3,270 comments) says:

    RRM….
    Go read yesterday’s thread you silly little fool.
    On the other hand, that might be a problem for you.
    To make good your deficiencies, you obviously rely upon a reader
    Nevertheless, and on the assumption that your reader accurately conveyed the words I actually used, your comprehension is clearly lacking.
    That is a problem for you – but also for us, since you inflict your screwed views upon sensible folk.

    Your other problem RRM, is that you have probably never, ever, worked for a living. I say that because academia,unions, or the central and local governmrent buracracies, are not “work”. If you do, or if you have, just name the companyand len gth pof zservice, and I shall withdraw and apologise.

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  21. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    bhudson – Straight up – I purchased duty free goods and was given a voucher to use the upstairs immigration counter. The voucher stated it was a special immigration point for DFS customers.

    Perhaps what happened in practise was the immigration officers’ just decided to process anyone who approached the counter and the store didn’t complain.

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  22. RightNow (6,338 comments) says:

    Ham – border, not boarder

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  23. RightNow (6,338 comments) says:

    Mind you, it is funny thinking of travellers entering our nation’s boarders. I guess some would like it, others not so much.

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  24. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    RightNow – fair call.

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  25. Australis (99 comments) says:

    Hamnida (868) – Auckland Airport regularly (like every year) wins awards for being one of the 10 best airports in the world.

    Do you want some regulators to make it impossible for them to offer services which are in demand by airlines? What would that achieve?

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  26. RRM (8,988 comments) says:

    flipper (1,113) Says:
    November 16th, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Your other problem RRM, is that you have probably never, ever, worked for a living. I say that because academia,unions, or the central and local governmrent buracracies, are not “work”. If you do, or if you have, just name the companyand len gth pof zservice, and I shall withdraw and apologise.

    :-)

    flipper –

    Thanks for asking – consulting structural engineer, ten year’s experience, six years at my present place of work. We have done a fair few seismic strengthening projects for schools, though we don’t do much other government work. I myself have designed a couple of multi-storey buildings and a few big industrial warehouses, and a heap of big architectural dream houses.

    My wife and I just bought a 5 bedroom house in the country that we moved into a month ago, along with our 8 year old girl and our 5 month old boy. We pay net tax, we don’t receive working for families, we don’t have a community services card, neither of us have ever been unemployed.

    I hope this is of some help in clearing up your obvious confusion.
    :-)

    There are all sorts of lawyers and other professionals commenting on here flipper, and you can pick them pretty easily by the way they conduct themselves and put their comments forward.

    YOU flipper seem like just another flippant troll on the internet to me. Since we’re sharing so openly, perhaps you’d like to offer some evidence that you’re not?

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  27. Liberty (212 comments) says:

    This is more to do with Winston Pandering to the rednecks.

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  28. Elaycee (4,067 comments) says:

    Sure as the sun rises in the East,the card carrying pinko Barry Soper commenced bleating about this topic as soon as he was linked to Larry Williams on NewstalkZB this afternoon. And just as sure as the big brown bear shits in the woods, Soper was adamant this was a sinister scheme that would give Chinese criminals a sure-fire way to fly in and launder money via Sky City.

    If he had a shred of intelligence, he would have known the stupidity of his comments – but no… he blathered on and merely reconfirmed his status as a political lightweight.

    Thankfully, Williams delivered the inevitable slapping to Soper and in doing so, restored some credibility to the segment. But given this latest demonstration of ineptitude, I have to wonder why the management of NewstalkZB still sees fit to have Soper reporting from Parliament and introduced as their ‘political editor’….. :(

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  29. mara (639 comments) says:

    China has easily cracked the Pacific Island cashew nut and NZ is the macadamia equivalent. It is harder to do but is not impossible. Sometimes all that is required is patience or determination.. China has both of these things. We do not.

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  30. Tauhei Notts (1,510 comments) says:

    Mr Farrar,
    Thank you for bringing this to our attention.
    I really do wish that I had access to to a decent newspaper while I sit on my throne having my morning constitutional. But while we are served with our present print media I will not suffer from constipation. They all give me the shits.

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  31. pq (728 comments) says:

    Winston said in the article : ” that China Southern Airlines deal is a recipe for illegal activity, including money laundering, warned of by the Department of Internal Affairs.”

    Is that true? Did Internal affairs say that ? Would you come to New Zealand to launder money.
    Is there a suggestion that the applications for Visa are processed in bulk without serious individual consideration.

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  32. mikenmild (8,817 comments) says:

    I’ll believe this is a problem when armed Police have to raid Sky City (or a mansion in Coatesville) to arrest some dodgy foreign billionaire.

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  33. joana (1,983 comments) says:

    Why is this a beatup? The Min of immigration is happy to ignore officials and dodge immigration law..Why are the officials paid such high salaries when they seem to be superfluous? Why is one group being encouraged to disregard our laws?
    Shameful behaviour from someone who should know better.

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  34. Mark (1,301 comments) says:

    warned of by the Department of Internal Affairs.”

    Is that true? Did Internal affairs say that ? Would you come to New Zealand to launder money.
    Is there a suggestion that the applications for Visa are processed in bulk without serious individual consideration.

    Fair questions that the government needs to answer. If the minister acted against the advice of his officials there should be a clear explanation as to why and the logic

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