Valuing the New Zealand Passport

Passports issued by first world countries are valuable things. The greater the credibility of a country on the world stage, the greater the ability of their national passport to get people into exotic places.

New Zealand is no exception. In fact we sit near the top of the power table for passports. There are not many countries a New Zealand passport will not let you into 170 countries according to the Henley and Partners 2014 Visa Restrictions Index. At the top are Finland, Germany, Sweden, U.S. and U.K. whose respective passports permit entry into 174 countries. At the other end of the scale an Afghanistan passport will permit entry into only 28 countries. An Iraqi passport will permit entry into only 31 countries – figures not likely to change before the insurgencies in either country either stabilise or are reduced to the point where they cannot no longer threaten.

I can appreciate efforts to protect the security of such a valuable document, property of the New Zealand Government. The New Zealand passport has over 1.5 million copies in circulation and is issued by the Department of Internal Affairs. Roughly 75% of the population has possessed or possesses a New Zealand passport of some description.

Unfortunately as an incident involving suspected Israeli Mossad agents in 2004 showed, whereas passport fraud might normally  be the work of organized terrorists, criminal groups or opportunistic fraudsters, sometimes Governments have ulterior motives as well. The incident involved two men who were jailed for six months. I am aware that it caused a diplomatic uproar including the suspension of diplomatic relations with Israel. The Government of Israel apologized in 2005.

The passport I had issued prior to my current one was a 10 year one, that lasted from 2002 to 2012. My current one will only last five years, before I have to renew it because the National-led Government of Prime Minister John Key did away with the 10 year version for reasons of fraudulent activity being linked to them. However a petition by Kyle Lockwood to the Government Administration Committee asking for the 10 year passport to be reintroduced was recognized on the grounds no clear link between fraudulent activity and 10 year passports could be identified.

Whilst I have no problems with people being issued New Zealand passports if they show that they are of good character, I believe every nation has the responsibility to put the passport needs of their citizenry first and foremost. In the case of New Zealand, I believe that the 10 year passport should be brought back, but the 10 year version should only be available to New Zealand citizens and that everyone else should hold five year passports. I further believe that three strikes penalty regime should exist for misuse of passports. For people who are not New Zealand citizens, the only way  to hold a passport should be to not commit any serious crime with permanent forfeiture of that right if something serious is committed. For New Zealanders it should be a substantially escalating fine/prison combination with the possibility of permanent loss only as a last resort for serial offenders.

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