Ardern talks down NZ travel bubble in 2020

Ben McKay
·2-min read

In her first major address since re-election, Jacinda Ardern says her governing priorities for 2020 are small business support and ensuring New Zealanders get a "safe summer holiday".

In bad news for the creation of a trans-Tasman bubble this year, Ms Ardern said she wasn't likely to alter "existing border settings" in the short-term.

Ms Ardern's Labour party won a convincing election win in the October 17 poll, a victory that will be confirmed on Friday when the Electoral Commission releases the final results.

In her speech to Business NZ on Thursday in Auckland, Ms Ardern said she interpreted the result in the COVID-dominated poll as "both endorsement of what we have done and plan to do".

"In New Zealand's case, we made our choices," she said.

"By forgoing some freedoms, namely the free movement at our borders, we retain the long term health of our population and the open economy we now enjoy.

"It was a choice but one that I strongly believe has served us well, and that New Zealanders have for the most part supported."

New Zealand's borders remain closed to foreigners, except to those with a government-approved exemption.

As of this week, Kiwis returning to New Zealand will also need to book stays in managed isolation facilities, a process which is frustrating many.

While the New Zealand government continues to talk with Australia as well as Pacific nations about opening up to allow freer movement, Ms Ardern has suggested this won't be considered this year.

"New Zealanders want and deserve a safe summer holiday, so our focus is on managing the existing risk profile," she said.

"We will be continuing with our existing border settings for now while we work on what can be accommodated within those settings."

The Labour leader's address to Business NZ suggested very little legislation to be progressed this year, as her government focuses instead on lifting support to businesses hit by the COVID-induced downturn.

On Wednesday, New Zealand reported updated unemployment rate of just 5.3 per cent - well below Treasury forecasts, as well as Australia's 6.9 per cent and the OECD average of 7.4 per cent.

Ms Ardern said she would look to extend a loan scheme and an interest-free period for small business and start up a "flexi-wage scheme" worth $NZ311 million ($A290 million) by the end of the year.

The government has also set a Christmas deadline for tabling laws that will double sick leave - from five days to 10 - before consulting on them next year.

Finally, Ms Ardern said "a trade mission will be on the top of my list" in 2021, naming Europe, the UK as a likely destination.