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Relief as easing of border restrictions allows America's Cup challengers, others into NZ

American and British challengers for the America's Cup are relieved after being allowed to enter New Zealand following the easing of border restrictions.

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Exemptions will also now be made for family members of New Zealand citizens, residents and essential workers. Source: 1 NEWS

The exemptions were granted for more than 400 crew and family members of New Zealand citizens as well as essential workers.

The decision came after the Government was put under pressure to ease restrictions with over $100 million in economic benefit.

“We're incredibly thankful for all that are involved in allowing this to happen. Still a bit of work to do but this was the first big hurdle,” American Magic skipper Terry Hutchinson said.

"I've had plenty of people getting in my ear about how important this is but the Government doesn't need any persuading that the America's Cup is very important to New Zealand," Minister of Economic Development Phil Twyford said.

Others battling at the border, though, were not so lucky - including New Zealander Hannah Davies and her American fiancé Joe.

“Not being able to see the person that you love, not being able to share a meal, not being able to sleep in the same bed - it's just, it's cruel,” Ms Davies said.

From today, New Zealand citizens and residents will no longer need to accompany partners or dependents to enter the country, but they will still need a relationship-based visa or been living here already.

“The partnership visa can take anywhere up to six months so that's, you know, in terms of a young couple, that is a lifetime for us,” Ms Davies said.

"Immigration NZ's own capacity is down a little at the moment because they have a lot of offices that are outside of NZ and all of those are closed," Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said.

Essential workers are allowed back, though the bar is very high, with the likes of production staff of Avatar given preference to fruit pickers or farm workers.

“It has to be people who absolutely have skills that are not available in NZ,” Mr Lees-Galloway said.

Despite a list of exemptions, international students missed out, with the Opposition accusing the Government of simply moving too slow for a sector worth $5 billion.

Its policy is promising to get the job done.

"We want to work the Government. We think we've got a really stringent policy here that will keep New Zealanders safe, but we need the Government to move a lot faster and that's what the sector is saying to us," National’s Nikki Kaye said.

Having beaten the virus, our borders remain a crucial wall of defence against a second wave - one that'll be contentious, though, as the rebuild takes over.