05 June 2010
New Zealand will accept Riff Raff – but not the man who inspired a statue in Hamilton's Victoria St.
Richard O'Brien, the Kiwi-raised creator of The Rocky Horror Show, has been told he can't retire here.
The 68-year-old British-born writer and actor is appealing to Immigration Minister Jonathon Coleman for help.
Mr O'Brien, who lives in London, has been back to New Zealand regularly since the 1960s and wants to retire to Katikati, where he has a small lifestyle property. But his immigration adviser Dion Smart said he did not fit the criteria for citizenship or permanent residency.
Two of Mr O'Brien's siblings, Robin Smith and Gillian Page, both live in Tauranga, as did their parents until they died about four years ago.
According to immigration requirements, to be sponsored by either of his siblings for permanent residency in New Zealand Mr O'Brien has to be aged 55 or under, and have secured a job offer – criteria he doesn't fit.
Mr O'Brien said he thought his application should be "rubber stamped" in light of his contribution to New Zealand. "I don't understand – they build a statue of me and celebrate me as a New Zealander, but I have to go on my knees and do all sorts of things, and I'm probably too old."
Mr O'Brien came to New Zealand as a 10-year-old with his family from Britain in 1952. He spent his teenage and early 20s in Hamilton, Tauranga and had a short stint near Putaruru.
He left in 1964 for London. In 2004, he was honoured with a statue of his character from Rocky Horror, the creepy butler Riff Raff, erected on the site of the Victoria St hairdresser's where Mr O'Brien worked for five years before leaving for Britain. His son Josh came to New Zealand on a student visa about four years ago and is applying for temporary residency with the aim of getting permanent residency in the future.
Mr Smart said having close family ties to New Zealand should help his case. Mr O'Brien has often spoken in interviews about growing up in New Zealand and the influence it has had on his life and work. Some of the songs from Rocky Horror were inspired by incidents in his youth here.