New Zealand journalist Peter Calder is soon to visit the Cooks for the third time – but is fed up with the process of getting a licence.
Having waited for an hour on his last visit in August 2012, he discovered the licences had run out. He was issued a temporary one and told the proper one would be posted to his home – “as if that is any use,” he said – but it never arrived.
“I know of no other country – and I have driven in the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States, France and Italy – which requires anything other than the production of a valid licence in a tourist’s country of origin,” he said.
Indeed, New Zealand allows visitors to drive using foreign licenses for up to a year, and Australia for three months, before foreigners need to make more permanent arrangements.
“The Cook Islands model is mad bureaucracy,” said Calder, “particularly for Kiwis in view of the ‘special relationship’ which extends to a common currency – which makes for a frustrating wait: thirty minutes one time, an hour the other time - and then they don’t give me the licence!”
Calder said it is waiting in line for the licence that makes the fee so unbearable.
“I can see that the government might be reluctant to kill such a cash cow, but why not let hire car and scooter firms issue the paper ones and on-pass the fee? Or just require the production of a valid licence and charge a $20 rental vehicle tax,” he suggested.
“In these difficult times, I would have thought a tourist destination would do anything it could to avoid pissing visitors off.”
Calder said his previous licence, had it arrived by post as he was told, would have only had 12 months’ validity from his visit in August last year, “so when I return this September, I would have to go through the same palaver again”.
“I accept I will be stretching a long bow,” he said, “but I will be trying to mount the argument that, the licence still not having been issued, it should have 12 months on it when it is issued – before I get there, I hope – so I can avoid the indignity and the wait.”