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Immigration NZ clarifies Odd Future ban

Friday 14 Feb 2014 5:00a.m.

Immigration NZ clarifies Odd Future ban

Immigration New Zealand have clarified the reasons for not allowing hip-hop collective Odd Future into the country – and say if the group's controversial frontman was not coming they "probably" would have been allowed in.

The group, fronted by Tyler, the Creator, were scheduled to play at Auckland's Rapture festival this weekend.

They got the call up last week to replace Kendrick Lamar, who withdrew to play the higher-profile NBA All-Star weekend in New Orleans this Sunday.

Immigration NZ Border Operation Manager Karen Urwin says despite public perception, the decision to block them had nothing to do with the lyrical content of their songs.

Ms Urwin says Immigration NZ made the decision around 2pm yesterday after receiving information from another Government agency.

The information related to incidents Odd Future had been involved with in the past – notably one in 2011 where a police officer was assaulted by a fan during a public appearance, and another last year where Tyler verbally blasted an activist who had tried to get a concert shut down.

"Because the lead singer has got 1.7 million followers on Twitter and because of the comments he made about her and the things he tweeted about her that poor woman was effectively harassed and threatened and we consider that kind of behaviour pretty serious," she says.

Under Immigration legislation, people who are believed to be a threat to public order can be refused entry to the country – though Ms Urwin says this is the first time she can recall it being applied to a musical act.

"Generally it's aimed at organisations like white supremacists and neo-Nazis, people who have come in here to be public speakers, holocaust deniers – those kinds of people."

But whether the ban is because of Odd Future as a whole is unclear – the group has already played three New Zealand shows, including two earlier this month in Auckland and Wellington.

"I think the key thing is that Tyler the Creator wasn't there. I think he seems to be, from what I can see, one of the main instigators," says Ms Urwin.

"I'd say that they probably would [be allowed in without him] since he seems to be the person who creates most of the trouble, but that's a matter for them – and if that's what they would like to do in the future, make an application to that effect, then we'd happily consider it."

Ms Urwin adds if Immigration NZ had known about the past issues before any of the other three concerts, it is likely the group would have been refused entry.

There have been no incidents on either of Odd Future's trips to New Zealand, but she says that does not weigh into the decision-making process.

"When you're dealing with public safety and you're dealing with crowds of people I think you have a duty to be really careful," says Ms Urwin.

And what of other acts such as Justin Bieber or One Direction, both of which have been involved in riots and controversies of their own?

"A thousand screaming teenage girls is quite different to a crowd attacking police," says Ms Urwin.

Despite the forced withdrawal of Odd Future from the Auckland show, Australia-based ticket agent Showbiz is not allowing refunds for the show. TicketMaster, another vendor, has not decided whether they will offer refunds but a spokesperson said as Odd Future were a supporting act it would be unusual.

3 News