Australia announced a one-way trans-Tasman travel bubble this week. Or the TTTB, as I’m calling it these days.
I know we have to start somewhere and sometime, but this was a very modest beginning.
So late this week, the Australian and New Zealand governments reached an agreement allowing people to travel from New Zealand to New South Wales and the Northern Territory from 16th October. This only applies to New Zealanders who have been in a non-COVID hotspot for 14 days, and if that’s you, the exciting part is that you won’t have to quarantine when you get to Australia.
However, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern isn’t throwing down the welcoming mat to our neighbours just yet. Ardern said it was too early to let Australians into New Zealand, and when New Zealanders return home they would need to complete the 14 days of managed isolation.
It’s worth pointing out that National’s leader Judith Collins doubts whether a two-way travel bubble with Australia will be opened soon. She would want a border protection agency operating in this country first, so goodness knows when those in the aviation and tourism industries will catch a break.
So where does this deal get us?
Well, to Sydney and Darwin, and for a considerable stay to make the returning quarantining, and its cost, worth it.
I can’t see many New Zealanders taking up this offer. Maybe those who like to spend several months at a time in Australia, those keen to attend a special family event, or be reunited with family members.
But in such a challenging and uncertain year, I’m not sure many of us have the time to quarantine, or the money to pay for it.
And let’s not forget, we have been talking about a Trans-Tasman travel bubble since July 1st. I admire Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s determination to make it happen, but who knows what’s around the corner? There’s no certainty that this will kick off on October 16th. All I can say is Flexi-fares, people!
The announcement is surely a blow to the aviation and tourism industries. I feel for Queenstown, well, actually the whole of the South Island and all those places around the country that have only had a handful of Covid 19 cases all year.
While the announcement may be underwhelming for those keen to spread their wings, and those desperate to welcome tourists to their regions and businesses, maybe we need to just accept this as the first step? An opportunity to test the waters?
We all knew opening up was going to be harder than locking down. We’ve sacrificed so much, got on top of the border, and don’t want to see elevated alert levels again. I get it, it’s all about the border, it’s our best defence.
But at some point, we are going to have to be brave, to pry open the door and join-up with parts of the world in the same situation as us. We can always slam it shut again.