Friday, June 04, 2010


Richard O'Brien, the New Zealand-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 now appealing to Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman for help.

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 2½-acre property. But his immigration adviser, Dion Smart, says he doesn't fit the criteria for citizenship or permanent residency.

Two of O'Brien's siblings, Robin Smith and Gillian Page, 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, O'Brien has to be aged 55 or under, and have secured a job offer – criteria he doesn't fit.

O'Brien says he thinks 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."

He came to New Zealand as a 10-year-old with his family from Britain in 1952.

He spent his teenage years and early 20s in Hamilton and Tauranga. He left in 1964 for London.

In 2004, he was honoured with a statue in Hamilton of his Rocky Horror character, the creepy butler Riff Raff, erected on the site of the barber shop where he worked before leaving for Britain.

His son Josh came to New Zealand on a student visa about four years ago and is applying for residency. Mr Smart says that having such close family ties to New Zealand should help his case.

O'Brien has often spoken in interviews about growing up in New Zealand and the influence it had on his life and work. Some of the songs from Rocky Horror were inspired by incidents in his youth here.

"I regret not getting citizenship before I went away to the UK. I thought I was only going on a one-year working holiday. I'm very proud of New Zealand. What it gave me was it's classlessness. It's a meritocracy. In 1964, Britain was a very class-run society, but I was indifferent to that."

Waikato film-maker Fiona Jackson, who directed the film An Evening with Richard O'Brien, says she's shocked he doesn't have New Zealand citizenship. "We've claimed him as our own. You would think making it legally so would be a formality."

You should have played sports Richard then you would have got in without any problems....

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