Fewer passports, lower costs?


The return to 10-year passports is welcome but like the Taxpayers’ Union executive director, Jordan Williams, queries why this could mean they become more expensive:

“If the validity of Kiwi passports is doubled to 10 years, our report on the cost of New Zealand passports shows that a price hike is still unjustified.”

“Even at the current price, New Zealanders would still pay more for a 10-year passport than the average citizen in our trading partners.”

“Last year we exposed the Government for sitting on a whopping surplus from passport fees. Passport fees should be set to recover the cost and not a dollar more. If Mr Key is being advised that a price hike is needed, clearly New Zealand officials are doing a much poorer job than our trading partners in running an efficient operation that allows citizens the basic ability to travel.”

If passports last for 10 years there will be fewer renewals to process.

That ought to require fewer staff and less office space and that ought to result in cost savings which ought to be passed on in lower fees.

With a smaller population we won’t have the economies of scale bigger countries do but fees for 10 year passports should be closer to $135 than $270.

Fees for passports should reflect a fair cost recovery and not be designed to make an excessive profit.

While giving a brickbat to the suggestion of a fee hike, I must also deliver a bouquet for very fast processing by the passport renewal office.

I renewed my passport on-line last week.

That process took me longer than it should have because I didn’t have a photo of the required 5ookb and had to get a professional to take one and email it to me.

However, once I had the photo the rest of the process was simple and when I submitted the application I got an immediate acknowledgement from the Department of Internal Affairs.

That email was sent at 6:55 last Tuesday evening and told me it could take 10 working days to process my application.

I got a second email at 4:54pm on Thursday informing me my new passport had been dispatched.

That is very good service and while I haven’t received the new passport yet that is due to Easter holidays, not the passport office.





Two good moves from government


Two good moves from government today:

First Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has announced that people with outstanding arrest warrants will no longer receive a benefit while evading Police.

“Of the approximately 15,000 people with a current arrest warrant, around 8,200 are on benefits,” says Mrs Bennett.

“If someone has an unresolved arrest warrant we will stop their benefit until they do the right thing and come forward to the authorities.”

“In exceptional circumstances where someone poses a danger to the public, their benefit can be stopped immediately at the request of the Police Commissioner,” says Mrs Bennett.

Around 58 per cent of people clear their arrest warrants within 28 days. Those who don’t will be given 10 days to clear or challenge the warrant before their benefit is stopped, or reduced by fifty per cent if they have dependent children.

People will still be able to apply for hardship assistance for themselves and their children.

“Most people clear their warrants within a month, so 38 days is a reasonable amount of time to step forward and straighten things out,” says Mrs Bennett.

“Once someone has come forward their benefit can be reinstated but there will be clear consequences for people who continually refuse to acknowledge or resolve arrest warrants.”

The only question about this is:why it has taken so long to do the sensible thing?

the welfare system wasn’t designed to support people who are evading Police.

The second good news is that the government is considering reducing fees for passport applications.

Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain says lower passport fees are being considered as the Government moves to enable online passport applications.

“Online applications have been trialled successfully and will be available to the public by the end of the year. This will streamline the process of applying for a passport and reduce costs, providing the opportunity to look at the level of fees,” says Mr Tremain.

“Passport fees are set at cost recovery level, currently $153.30 for a standard adult passport. Revenue from passports is only spent on passports. The change to a five-year passport has increased the volume of renewals, and a growing surplus has built up in the account, meaning that there is scope to reduce fees.

“Changing passport fees would require a change to regulations. I have asked officials to report back to me on different options for fee reductions, including a lower fee for online applications to incentivise applicants to move online.

“This will contribute significantly to the Government’s Better Public Services Result 10: That New Zealanders can complete their transactions easily with government in a digital environment. This aims to have 70% uptake of digital and online services for key transactions by 2017, including passport applications.

“Passports consistently rate among the very top public services in the Kiwis Count figures produced by the State Services Commission. This is an opportunity to return some savings to passport holders and provide even better public services at a lower cost.”

It’s only under consideration at the moment but such a move would be very welcome.

Applications should be charged on a cost-recovery basis and if the department is recovering more than it costs a reduction in charges is the logical action.

Five years come around very quickly and many people have to renew their passport some time before the old one expires.

Several countries require visitors to have a passport valid for up to six months before they are granted entry. That means you’re paying for a five-year passport which might be able to be used for only four and half years which makes it even more expensive.

When you look like your passport photo it’s time to go home


When you look like your passport phot, it’s time to go home, was Erma Bombeck’s line and there’s more than an element of truth in it.

The camera may not lie but sometimes it has a very unflattering angle on the truth and never more so than when it’s taking the mugshot which goes on a passport.

My last passport photo was so bad, it was a wonder I was allowed to leave this country let alone enter another with it.

It was worse than unflattering, so bad in fact that the photographer offered to take another free of charge. I turned her down on the theory that if I stuck with it I’d be able to say I looked better when I renewed it than I had 10 years earlier.

That decade is over and I’ve just applied for a new passport.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say the photo for it is good, but it does portray me in a slightly kinder light than the old one did.

New passport – why not smaller?


A new design for New Zealand passports features a silver fern on a black background.

It also has a map of New Zealand and the coat of arms although the latter is smaller than the one in the current passport.

Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker said the current design was very similar to other countries’ passports, but the new design was instantly recognisable as being from New Zealand.

“I’m pleased to see we have a passport that’s strikingly New Zealand, is unmistakable and if ever left in a pool of all the other passports in the world, you would pick it instantly.”

The new passport will also have 50 separate security features, making it one of the most technologically advanced in the world.

I don’t have a problem with the new design, but wonder if it’s possible to make passports smaller.

When we travel I keep my passport in a money belt around my waist which is fine when I’m standing but when I sit down it gets in the way and buckles. That wouldn’t happen if it was smaller.

It would be better still if all the information needed in a passport could be contained in something the size of a credit card.

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