Jacinda Ardern says wait for transtasman travel bubble not 'too long'

Author
Derek Cheng, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 27 May 2020, 4:08PM
Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters are pushing for a transtasman travel bubble as soon as one can be safely put in place. (Photo / Pool)
Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters are pushing for a transtasman travel bubble as soon as one can be safely put in place. (Photo / Pool)

Jacinda Ardern says wait for transtasman travel bubble not 'too long'

Author
Derek Cheng, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 27 May 2020, 4:08PM

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says people won't have to wait "too long" for a transtasman travel bubble, with a draft blueprint covering all aspects potentially ready within a week.

But Ardern wouldn't be drawn on any further details around when the bubble might open, and safety procedures before, during and after a flight needed to be put in place first.

Whether it could open with some Australian states but not with others still needed to be worked out, and Ardern has said it was up to Australia to work that out.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said the bubble could start with Tasmania and New South Wales, and "pretty soon" Queensland as well.

"I'm saying to Australians - don't let the federal system be an obstacle. Let's start with the states that are ready, and the rest will chime in pretty soon," Peters said.

"We do not want to be looking at criteria when the balloon goes up, so to speak. We've got to be ready, and now.

"We still think we still gotta see our populations as one country. And rather than going inter-state, we can go inter-country."

The Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group - co-ordinated by the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum - has been working on a draft blueprint to be presented to both governments in early June.

Aspects being worked through include pre-flight health requirements and eligibility, protections on board an aircraft, movement through airports, and contact-tracing requirements once people have landed.

Capacity, any necessary physical distancing, cleaning protocols and education campaigns were also issues being considered.

"Our aim is to put forward a detailed set of recommendations that safely manage any health risks, while also allowing Kiwis and Australians to travel to each country without the need for a 14-day quarantine," said group co-chair Scott Tasker, who also works for Auckland Airport.

"New Zealanders and Australians are some of the most frequent travellers in the world and we are very fortunate to now be in a position where our governments can even contemplate the safe reopening of the trans-Tasman border."

The group is made up of 11 government agencies, six airports, two airlines, and includes health experts and airline, airport and border agency representatives from both Australia and New Zealand.

Ardern spoke with her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison yesterday, and today she said there was much enthusiasm from both sides of the Tasman.

The transtasman bubble wasn't ready yet, but the wait wouldn't be "too long".

Each country is considered vital to the success of each other's small and medium-sized businesses, including respective tourism sectors, with estimated $3 billion in international visitor spend each way every year.

Prior to the Covid crisis, New Zealand was the most popular outbound travel destination for Australians with 1.5 million visitors arriving from across the Tasman in 2019, accounting for 40 per cent of all foreign visitors to New Zealand.

Likewise, Australia was the most popular outbound travel destination for Kiwis.

New Zealand is Australia's second largest source market for visitors, with 1.4 million visitors in 2019, accounting for 15 per cent of total visitors to Australia.

Peters also said he wanted New Zealand to move to alert level 1 yesterday, but Cabinet had decided by consensus to go with public health advice to stay at level 2 for at least two two-week incubation periods.

"We think it's urgent, and we're just reflecting what a significant number of New Zealand business people think, and workers think," Peters said.

Ardern said yesterday there had been disagreement within Cabinet about when to move to level 1, including from NZ First Cabinet members, and today she said that was not unusual in a coalition government.