NZ without appetite for more bubbles

·2-min read

One of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's favourite movies played out in New Zealand's airports on Monday, when thousands of separated families enjoyed emotional reunions thanks to the trans-Tasman bubble.

The Kiwi PM, who was in cabinet as the first flights landed, revealed she cried and needed a box of tissues on seeing the pictures of loved ones being reunited.

"I just would have loved to have been a bystander, to see those families reunited for the first time," she said in Wellington.

"I could think of nothing other than to liken it to a scene, that's giving away my tastes in film, from Love Actually."

New Zealand's decision to exempt Australian travellers from quarantine was a long time in the making.

While Australia opened borders to Kiwi travellers last October, Ms Ardern's government equivocated on the issue since it was originally agreed in principle last May.

The crucial change of tack came earlier this year, when it adopted Australia's hotspot approach to containing future outbreaks.

Ms Ardern acknowledged the suffering on both sides of the Tasman in a speech at Wellington Airport.

"We needed to take steps and measures to keep everyone here in Aotearoa New Zealand safe, but there is no doubt that that came at a cost," she said.

"And we have seen today scenes at our airports across New Zealand that have reminded us of the personal sacrifices and price that has been paid by so many New Zealanders.

"We have seen grandparents meeting their grandchildren.

"This has been incredibly tough on everyone ... so thank you for helping us get here today."

The emotional scenes aren't likely to persuade Ms Ardern into similar large-scale openings in the short term.

New Zealand will open up next to the Cook Islands, and then Niue, two tiny Pacific Island nations with longstanding links to Aotearoa.

After that, it's an open question, with Singapore, Fiji and other nations among those putting up their hands.

"We haven't discussed the possibility of opening up to anyone else at this point," she said.

"Having our freedom and having our health is a real priority and we'll be looking to preserve that."

Ms Ardern also revealed she would be enjoying some reunions of her own soon.

"We have genuinely missed our Australian cousins, and that's because in some cases, they are literally our cousins. That's certainly the case for me," she said.

"Like many New Zealanders I have friends and family in Australia ... there's a few friends of my own I'm really looking forward to seeing."