June 12, 2020 / 12:14 AM / a month ago

Sailing: New Zealand government grant travel exemptions to America's Cup syndicates

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Two syndicates challenging for sailing’s America’s Cup have been granted exemptions to enter New Zealand and begin their preparations for the event that will be held in Auckland early next year.

FILE PHOTO: Sailing - America's Cup finals - Hamilton, Bermuda - June 26, 2017 - Emirates Team New Zealand celebrates with the America's Cup trophy in 2017 after defeating Oracle Team USA. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

Just over 400 people, almost 200 staff working for the American Magic and Britain’s INEOS Team UK syndicates and 214 of their family members would receive the exemptions, New Zealand’s Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford said on Friday.

“The America’s Cup would not be able to go ahead unless these international syndicate teams are allowed entry into New Zealand,” Twyford said in a statement.

“Approving these border exemptions allow the teams to start setting up their bases, and carry on key design and boat testing that can be progressed from our shores in New Zealand.”

The two syndicates had voiced concerns in the last month that they needed to enter New Zealand by July to begin preparations for the regatta.

New Zealand closed its borders in March to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, with only citizens and permanent residents allowed to enter the country.

The government, however, had the power to grant exemptions to essential workers or those that could provide significant economic benefit to the country.

More than 50 workers on the ‘Avatar 2’ film project were granted exemptions to enter the country last month.

Economic Development Minister Twyford said last week the syndicates’ applications had yet to reach his desk but he expected them “shortly” and the government was “very keen” for the America’s Cup to go ahead.

The government expects more than NZ$100 million ($64 million) in economic benefits from hosting the America’s Cup, which will start in January with a regatta between the four challengers from Italy, Britain and the United States.

The winner then faces Team New Zealand for the America’s Cup next March.

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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