Citizenship rules thwart candidate

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The end-of-game whistle has sounded for Mataura Licensing Trust board member Alan (Tiny) Byrne.

After 22 years of service on the board, Mr Byrne has been found ineligible to stand again for the Gore ward due to his British citizenship.

Mr Byrne, who played rugby for Southland, said he was viewing the situation a little bit like a game of rugby.

In rugby the rules determined how the game was played and if the referee blew the whistle the decision had to be respected.

It was the same with who could stand in local body elections.

“The rules state you are a Pom and we don’t want you,” Mr Byrne said.

He migrated to New Zealand in 1961 as a 2-year-old.

“My sister and I travelled on mum and dad’s passport.

“I’ve spent 1.4% of my life in England.”

Later he applied for a British passport to help his children, who wanted to travel to the United Kingdom.

“Now I’m classified as a foreigner .. although my passport has permanent resident’s visa written in it.”

It never occurred to Mr Byrne that he was ineligible to stand because not only had he served on the board for many years, he had been on the electoral roll since he was 18.

It was disappointing not to be able to stand as he had really enjoyed his time with the trust.

The board members were “a great bunch of people” to work with and the trust made a valuable contribution to the district.

“It does a hell of a lot for the place,” he said.

“You get a great thrill out of helping people.”

He was always impressed when people sent the trust hand-written requests for a grant.

“I’m a bit old-fashioned in that respect. To me the person’s made an effort.”

However, Mr Byrne had been planning that, if he was re-elected, this would be his last term.

“I’d decided that would make 25 .. and 25 years is a good number to end on.”

One positive from this situation was he had not been voted off.

Gore District Council deputy electoral officer Luke Blackbeard said, by law, candidates were required to be New Zealand citizens.

“Candidates have always been required to declare their citizenship on their nomination documents.

“However, they have not always been required to verify citizenship in the past,” Mr Blackbeard said.

When several elected candidates took office after the 2016 election, it was discovered they were not citizens. They had to stand down.

“These elections, councils and their election service providers, which in the Gore District Council’s case is electionz.com, took a proactive approach, requiring proof of citizenship before accepting a nomination.”

Many people lived in New Zealand all their lives as permanent residents and did not realise that citizenship is something different, he said.