Singer songwriter David Rovics is stranded, after New Zealand has treated him very inhospitably. Shame on them. This is the first bad thing I've ever heard about NZ, but it's a nasty one. Come on New Zealand. Treat this man better. Rob Kall
When I got paged over the intercom to the All Nippon Airways desk I was nervous, but figured it was something about a seat assignment on the flight from Narita to Auckland that I was about to board. When the woman from ANA handed me a cell phone and said that someone from New Zealand Immigration in Auckland wanted to talk to me, I was suddenly feeling fatalistic.
"Mr. Rovics, why are you coming to New Zealand?"
"I'm playing six small gigs."
She already knew this, but she wanted to hear it from me. I learned from my problems entering Canada that lying is the thing they dislike the most.
"Yes, I hope to make a little money while in New Zealand, though it's all very marginal," I replied.
Which sure is the truth. In a country as remote from the rest of the world as New Zealand, people there tend to be very excited when anybody from the outside world shows up -- and for good reason. It's extremely expensive to get there from anywhere other than Australia, and the whole country has only two urban areas that might remotely qualify as "cities" where a performer like me might stand to draw a decent audience.
Nobody tours New Zealand to make money, as far as I know. The people there who make the laws issuing work permits seem to know this -- a work permit for New Zealand is free. The only charge involved is the permission you need to get from the musician's union. Which, last time I got one, was also free -- they waived it since they heard I was singing at a labor rally in Dunedin.
"Do you have a work permit?"
She obviously also knew the answer to this question -- she's an immigration agent, for Pete's sake.
Which is true. Although I sure was wishing I had taken care of this formality a long time before. Which is what I had done before my three previous tours of Aotearoa, aka New Zealand. The problem is, unless you live near a city with a New Zealand consulate in it, which I don't, you have to mail your passport in to their embassy in Washington, DC, and be without a passport for several weeks, which is a logistical challenge for someone who tours as much as me. One I vainly hoped I could avoid, and one I've managed to avoid in Australia, where I have successfully gotten work visas after arriving on Australian soil twice before. (Which costs $895. Which is a hell of a lot of money, when you're paying thousands just to get there, and thousands more to traverse the vast distances in that massive, barely-populated continent. Another place where it's almost impossible to make any money touring, but I keep doing it anyway, for some reason.)
"Mr. Rovics, can you tell me what happened to you recently at the airport in Trondheim, Norway?"
I just wanted to tell her to get to the point, but I knew that I had to answer all of her questions if I wanted to have any chance of getting in to her lovely, stolen country of rolling hills, sheep, and imprisoned natives.