With New Zealand boasting no active coronavirus cases as of Monday, discussions over easing travel restrictions with Australia have been reignited, and there is one state that could be the first to welcome kiwi visitors.
Plans to open a trans-Tasman bubble, allowing Australians and New Zealanders to travel back and fourth is something New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters thinks is overdue.
“The trans-Tasman bubble should have been open, like level 1, yesterday,” he said Tuesday, according to Stuff.
Mr Peters cited the Australian Federal Government’s inter-state border closures as the reason for the delay and said his country was ready to hop on a plane.
“As soon as they say we are ready to go, we are off,” he said.
The New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister suggested a state by state approach starting with Tasmania due to it’s low coronavirus cases, saying Australia should not be “paralysed by the worst performer”.
Mr Peters spoke with Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein recently and discussed the possibility of direct flights between the state and Wellington.
“In this start-up experience, what’s critical is that Tasmania’s successful when it comes to COVID-19 and I think we’ve got to start somewhere, so why not?” Mr Peters said.
It’s a flight route the Tasmanian leader is keen to get off the ground.
"The discussions have been very positive and I have no doubt an Australian - New Zealand travel bubble will be established once international borders can be relaxed and I'm working hard to get Tasmania on that route," Mr Gutwein told The Examiner.
Mr Peters has previously said other Australian states could be involved with the bubble, saying there was “no reason” why New Zealand could not start with Tasmania, Queensland or the Northern Territory, which had similar results to New Zealand.
South Australian Minister for Tourism Simon Birmingham agrees it’s best not to wait too long, saying like New Zealand “we have states and jurisdictions in Australia who have eliminated all cases of COVID-19”.
“We shouldn't wait for the slowest state for us to open up travel with New Zealand. Once our systems are ready, our Border Force and our airports and New Zealand are equally ready, then I hope that we can see that sort of travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand open up as quickly as possible,” he told the ABC.
If Tasmania, no loophole for other states
No timeline for the travel plan has been formally suggested, however New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern squashed ideas for a July 1 start date, telling a breakfast television show that Australia needed to be in a similar position to New Zealand first.
“We have to make sure that we feel that we are not losing any of our gains by making the decisions that we’re making – different (Australian) states are in different positions at the moment,” she said on Tuesday.
For residents in other states like NSW and Victorian – which have not closed borders – who are keen to take advantage of a possible loophole and stop over in Tasmania before heading to New Zealand, quarantine rules for entering Tasmania would also need to be relaxed.
At this stage the Tasmanian border remains closed. Only local residents and essential travellers are allowed to enter the state, and all travellers are required to quarantine for 14 days.
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