I don’t mean to sound like a Grinch, but the weekend’s Cook Islands travel bubble announcement was hollow hot air. It was an announcement when you are not having an announcement. An empty gesture that gets us no further ahead.
Is the government good to go? No
Do we have a launch date for the Cooks? No
Should we already have quarantine-free travel with the Cooks? Absolutely. Months ago.
It’s a disgrace that friends and family between the Cooks and New Zealand cannot see each other for Christmas.
It’s also an affront to the Cooks economy, that Wellington drags the chain on what should have been an early win. 85% of the Cooks GDP is generated from tourism. 85%. Pre-Covid, in New Zealand, the direct and indirect impact of tourism amounted to 10% of our GDP.
There’s actually little geographical difference between travel to the Cooks, with travel to our outer islands. Whether you’re an Aucklander heading to Stewart Island, or tripping from Christchurch to Chathams, what really makes Rarotonga so hard? Is there really a big bad world of difference?
All we know from this joint statement is that we’re now shooting for a start to quarantine-free travel by the end of March next year. And it’s sounds like their next steps will actually be a two-step process. For starters, quarantine-free travel will only apply to Cook Islanders wanting to visit New Zealand. Two way quarantine-free travel will follow at some point after that.
This joint statement is as clear as mud. Its Labour’s preferred approach to bubble updates. Keep it opaque, imprecise and ambiguous. The prospect of quarantine-free travel with Australia remains even foggier. A pea-souper.
Where is the verve? Where is the resolve? Where is the impetus to actually get moving on reconnecting with our Covid-free neighbours? Where are the clear dates so that people can actually plan their lives and make arrangements? When can we start dreaming again?
This joint statement about the Cooks might strike you as being hopeful, but it’s hardly helpful.