New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has warned there is a “lot of work to be done” before a trans-Tasman bubble can become a reality, but played up the concept.
Speaking late on Tuesday after attending Australia’s National Cabinet, Ardern said, “A trans-Tasman COVID-safe travel zone would be mutually beneficial, assisting our trade and economic recovery, helping kick-start the tourism and transport sectors, enhancing sporting contacts, and reuniting families and friends.”
It comes after Australian Aviation reported that Qantas is already primed to restart flights should restrictions on travel between the two countries be eased.
“We need to be cautious as we progress this initiative,” said Ardern. “Neither country wants to see the virus rebound so it’s essential any such travel zone is safe.
“Relaxing travel restrictions at an appropriate time will clearly benefit both countries and demonstrates why getting on top of the virus early is the best strategy for economic recovery.
“Our relationship is one of family – and our unique travel arrangement means we have a head start for when it is time to get trans-Tasman travel flowing again.
“Once we have established effective travel arrangements across the Tasman, we will also explore opportunities to expand the concept to members of our broader Pacific family, enabling travel between Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Island countries. We will work with interested Pacific countries on parameters and arrangements to manage the risks.”
It comes after New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters hinted over the weekend that a deal could happen, calling the countries “two of the most integrated economies in the world”.
Previously, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the countries were at a “comparable stage” in their fight against coronavirus, while Scott Morrison said, “If there is any country in the world with whom we can reconnect with first, undoubtedly that’s New Zealand.”