Transtasman bubble confirmed: Kiwis 'desperately need a break' – PM

Author
Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 15 Dec 2020, 10:19AM
Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images

Transtasman bubble confirmed: Kiwis 'desperately need a break' – PM

Author
Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 15 Dec 2020, 10:19AM

New Zealanders will be free to travel across the ditch quarantine-free early next year, barring any significant Covid-19 roadblocks and if Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison gives the plan the all-clear.

"I think New Zealanders desperately need a break," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said after making the announcement.

Before taking questions, she announced that the Cabinet had agreed, in principle, to establish a travel bubble with Australia in the first quarter of 2021.

That was, however, pending confirmation from the Australian Cabinet and is also contingent on there being no significant changes in the Covid-19 circumstances of either country.

On the former point, the Australian Government is already sounding optimistic.

Its Minister of Health Greg Hunt told media his Government was ready to implement a bubble "as soon as New Zealand is ready".

"We consciously opened up Australia to people coming from New Zealand because their case numbers were negligible," he said.

"It's good for the economy, good for our airlines and it's good for both countries – it's the first step towards restoring international normality."

But just when within the first quarter the bubble will officially open is not yet known – Ardern said she would make an announcement on this in the New Year.

Last week, however, the Herald reported that the transtasman travel bubble is unlikely to be implemented before February – meaning March is the only option.

Ardern would not be drawn on questions around timing, as she said that could lead to the premature booking of flights or the cancelling of MIQ bookings.

In the meantime, there are still a number of issues the Government needs to sort out.
For example, arrangements need to be made with airlines about crew management for transtasman flights.

The Minister responsible for Covid-19, Chris Hipkins, is meeting with Air New Zealand's leadership tomorrow to hammer out some of the details.

Ardern also said the Government needed to work out contingency plans in the event of another outbreak in Australia.

"We would need to make arrangements to have potentially thousands of New Zealand is brought back to New Zealand and numbers that we wouldn't be able to necessarily facilitate and managed isolation."

She said the Government would outline more details of the Government's resurgence plan later this week.

"New Zealanders, by and large, will appreciate the approach of the Government to ensure that we are not taking on unnecessary risk as we're going into summer in a much-needed summer break for New Zealanders."

Meanwhile, National say New Zealand is "dragging the chain" when it comes to the travel bubble with Australia.

The party's Covid-19 response spokesman Chris Bishop pointed out New Zealanders have been able to travel to Australia without quarantining since October 16.

But the same won't happen in New Zealand until well into next year – this has cost businesses and their staff dearly, he said.

"The news gives the glimmer of progress without any real substance to it. Businesses are still none the wiser on when we will see Australians able to enter New Zealand without quarantining."

Today's Australian travel bubble news follows confirmation that New Zealanders will be able to travel to the Cook Islands without having to quarantine for two weeks in the country – or on their return home.

"The arrangement… will allow people to travel more easily between our two countries while acknowledging that the priority remains to protect our populations from Covid-19," Ardern said over the weekend.