New Zealand’s prime minister has told the country’s media that her government is willing to open the trans-Tasman travel ‘bubble’ to individual Australian states.
The change in thinking from Jacinda Ardern, who previously said all borders in Australia would likely open to one another before the bubble gets going, comes as some Australian states – including Queensland – continue to successfully combat COVID-19.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Ardern said that she was awaiting a response from Australia on its decision to operate the travel bubble nationally or state by state.
If states were to open up to New Zealand, Ardern said they would need to retain border controls for travellers within Australia in order to avoid travellers from coronavirus-effected states like Victoria coming to the Land of the Long White Cloud by a safer state.
“It comes down to decision-making by Australia itself. We’ve got our criteria for what we need to see – either as the country as a whole or state by state – in order to open up. Whether they choose to go state by state is a matter for them,” Ardern told The AM Show.
“If states continue to have their own border controls … then it is possible. But that’s actually Australia’s call, not ours.”
Despite last week’s comments by Australian Minister for Tourism Simon Birmingham that the travel bubble between the two countries could take-off by September, provided the coronavirus surge in Victoria is brought under control, Ardern refused to put a timeline on the trans-Tasman agreement.
Birmingham’s comments related to the bubble on a country-wide scale – a position favoured by the Commonwealth, according to the The Australian Financial Review – and came days before the NSW border with Victoria was officially closed on Wednesday, due to the latter state’s surge in cases.
Travel industry veteran and co-chair of the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum (ANZLF) Ann Sherry told AFR she could see a bubble working with “Queensland and one of the big population states like NSW”.
“The leaders of both countries are very keen to make it happen and I don’t think [Prime Minister Scott] Morrison is ready to throw in the towel on the bubble,” Sherry told the outlet.
“We have always said this bubble needs to go from September and we need to stick to that.
“If it drifts too long, it won’t happen and that will tear the guts out of tourism on both sides of the Tasman.”
The ANZLF is currently leading a proposal handed to Australia and New Zealand’s federal governments aiming for a September start date for quarantine-free trans-Tasman travel.
The group’s proposal includes the creation of “channels” at airports to keep Australian and New Zealand arrivals isolated and the minimisation of touchpoints between passengers, flight crew and airport staff.
Featured image source: Ministry of Justice of New Zealand