Francesca Rudkin: Latest border ineptitude dulls travel bubble's shine

Author
Francesca Rudkin,
Publish Date
Sun, 18 Apr 2021, 10:36AM
The Grand Millennium has been centre of the most recent border concewrn. (Photo / File)

Francesca Rudkin: Latest border ineptitude dulls travel bubble's shine

Author
Francesca Rudkin,
Publish Date
Sun, 18 Apr 2021, 10:36AM

Tonight, at 11.59, the Trans-Tasman bubble officially begins.

For the first time in more than a year, passengers on green flights will be able to travel quarantine free between Australia and New Zealand

This shouldn’t be a big deal. Jumping on a flight across the ditch was something Kiwis took for granted and did in their thousands each week, and it does seem a bit strange that it’s become a marker for post-Covid recovery.

But it has. It represents a small but exciting step towards normality, and reconnecting with the world - something that was starting to feel may never happen.

The timing couldn’t be better with schools on holiday for two weeks and the ANZAC Day long weekend approaching. It will be fascinating to see the stats - how many people are travelling for a holiday, to see family or for work.

Most people I know who are jumping on a plane this week or in the near future are off to hold a grandchild or niece they’re yet to meet in person, or to give their parents a hug.

And why wouldn’t you take the risk? Being able to reach beyond a digital screen and connect properly is for many people a very real need, not a want. Over the last year, we’ve learnt the importance of being connected. Be it with family and friends, neighbours, our community or workplace; more than ever we are thinking about each other and what’s important to us.

Can you imagine the greetings at the airport tomorrow as approximately 5200 people travel either way across the ditch? I’m sure the reunions will lead the 6pm news bulletins on Monday evening – and probably bring on viewer tears.  

But there is risk involved – which is why we have a traffic light system, and why the Prime Minister has made it very clear that if a lockdown closes borders and you are either stranded or required to go into MIQ – the cost is on the traveller. For many, that’s too big a risk just now.

A New Zealand Herald-Kanter poll released yesterday found 54 percent of New Zealanders were keen to go to Australia over the next year, with the percentages growing from 3% keen to travel in the next month to 15% keen to travel in the coming 6 months, and so on.

So for many it’s a wait and see approach - and considering this week’s border-related confusion over how many MIQ workers have been vaccinated and tested it seems inevitable the traffic light will at some stage turn from green, to orange or red.

I called it a hiccup last weekend - at the time, who would have thought such incompetence would unfold during the week. We’ve sacrificed a lot to live with the freedoms we have today and the ineptitude from the government when it comes to answering a few simple, but hugely important questions, about protecting our main asset in the fight against Covid - our borders - leaves you with your head in your hands.