Australia and New Zealand have kicked off “unprecedented” discussions at a National Cabinet meeting with the aim of creating a “bubble” that would allow international travel across the ditch.
A trans-Tasman travel “bubble” could be established between Australia and New Zealand, according to NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern,
The idea to establish an exclusive travel zone that would open borders between the two countries was floated last week but has since escalated to a leadership level.
Ms Ardern joined Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a meeting of the National Cabinet on Tuesday morning, where the idea was part of the agenda. Ardern, who left the meeting early, remained tight-lipped on the Trans-Tasman travel discussion, given the meeting was still in session between Mr Morrison and Australian state leaders.
Speaking to media in Wellington, Ardern told reporters that the purpose of the ‘bubble’ would be bring “some normality” back to both nations, however some questioned whether the move is “too ambitious” given Australia is still reporting cases of the virus.
“The position that I would take on behalf of New Zealand is that when we feel comfortable and confident that we both won’t receive cases from Australia, but equally we won’t export them then that will be the time to move,” she said.
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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will join Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state leaders at Tuesday’s National cabinet where the idea of a ‘travel bubble’ will be discussed. Picture: Hagen Hopkins/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will outline what new travel model may look like. Picture: Rohan Thomson/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
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Ardern said the logistics of how the ‘travel bubble’ would work were still being discussed in the meeting, but said a quarantine attached to Trans-Tasman travel would be unlikely.
“I think everyone would acknowledge it would be prohibitive,” she said.
“People wouldn’t travel if they had to stay on either side in quarantine for a two-week period and have to do the same when you return. But there is still a lot of work to be done before we can progress an idea like that.”
Ardern said international travel will not go back to normal for “some time” but a travel bubble between nations would be the first step in the road out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If we can find a way to make it work with Australia, then that would give that sense of normality, if we can make it work,” she said.”
Last month, Mr Morrison said opening borders to New Zealand was on the cards, however, Ms Ardern said she didn’t want to move on the decision too quickly.
“Our number one focus at the moment is making sure that both our countries are in the position where we’re domestically managing COVID-19 to a point where we can with confidence open borders,” she said on April 27.
“One thing I’m not willing to do is jeopardise the position that New Zealand has got itself into by moving too soon to open our borders – even to Australia.”
Both Australia and New Zealand closed their borders to foreign tourists in March, which has severely impacted tourism in both nations.
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Australians may be able to travel to New Zealand by August. Picture: Fraser ClementsSource:Supplied
HOW WILL THE ‘TRAVEL BUBBLE’ WORK
The establishment of a trans-Tasman travel “bubble”, if approved, will likely be rolled out by August to catch the end of the New Zealand ski season, and ahead of the September school holiday period.
There are questions, however, on whether international arrivals will be required to undertake a COVID-19 test at both departure and arrival terminals, and if the mandatory 14-day quarantine will remain in place.
There is speculation that a passenger would only be allowed to board once they’ve given a negative result upon entering the airport. Once arriving to the destination, that test will be taken again.
Will quarantine be a requirement if travelling to New Zealand from Australia?Source:Supplied
For New Zealand especially, where tourism is the country’s biggest export industry, the decision on the ‘travel bubble’ will a big step in getting each nation clawing back at the billions lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Australians alone make up 40 per cent of international arrivals to New Zealand, and bring in almost 25 per cent of that nation’s international visitor spend (around $1.68 billion in 2019 alone).
For Australia, New Zealand visitors account for around 15 per cent of overseas arrivals, bringing in around $1.7 billion in foreign spending last year.
Greens leader Adam Bandt welcomed the news but urged the Morrison Government to go slow with any decisions on the ‘travel bubble’.
Australians spend around $1.7 billion in New Zealand, making tourism the nation’s biggest export. Picture: iStockSource:istock
“I think we could be open to those ideas if there is greater co-operation and protection put in place given the good work that they’ve done over in New Zealand,” Mr Bandt told the ABC’s Patricia Karvelas.
“I don’t think we should be closed to that. But, again, I would just … when it comes to lifting border restrictions more generally outside of New Zealand, beyond that … I have to say I’m a little worried that there will be a push for those to be lifted sooner than they might need to be and, again, it being driven by the money motive rather than being driven by the health motive.”
On Tuesday, Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said if the Trans-Tasman travel bubble went ahead, an arrangement for direct flights to and from Hobart could be advantageous for the state.
“It would mean ensuring that we have the appropriate quarantine arrangements here in Hobart, but I think direct flights are certainly something that we can consider,” he said.
“It’s something I’ve raised with Tourism Tasmania and with Hobart Airport.”
Tasmania Premier Peter Gutwein said if enough safeguards were in place, he would consider creating a direct flight route from Hobart to New Zealand. Picture: Zak SimmondsSource:News Corp Australia
Direct flights to New Zealand from Tasmania have not been in place since the 1990s, but Mr Gutwein said they would only consider the route if enough safeguards were in place.
“This is not going to happen tomorrow, it’s not going to happen next week, but as we work our way through the course of this calendar year, if the opportunity arises … if we have confidence we can have flights … then that’s an opportunity that we can look at, and one that I’m looking to pursue,” he said.
“It’s important we step through this very carefully and we do not want to get in front of ourselves in terms of these discussions.”
EXPERTS WARN OTHER OVERSEAS TRAVEL UNLIKELY BEFORE 2021
Australians itching to travel abroad are being warned that holidays to places like Bali, Hawaii and the Greek Islands probably won’t happen until at least 2021.
In a new survey, 42 experts and economists have weighed in on the state of Australia’s tourism economy from foreign spend, and also the staggering figure we will lose as a result of COVID-19.
In the May instalment of Finder’s RBA Cash Rate Survey – which looks at various aspects of Australia’s economy and is considered one of the biggest of its kind – experts forecast our borders to remain closed for the rest of the year.
Heading to places like Bali and Hawaii look unlikely until well into 2021. Picture: iStockSource:istock
The decision will, according to the research, leave a $25 billion hole in foreign spending if our borders remain closed for six months.
Graham Cooke, insights manager at Finder, said there is a risk that the volume of international travellers won’t return for many years.
“Continuing restrictions are projected to result in millions fewer tourists into 2021 and with it, billions in foregone spending.
“This is a problem for all corners of Australia, with 44 cents of every tourism dollar spent in regional destinations,” Mr Cooke said.
PUSH TO PROMOTE LOCAL TOURISM IN AUSTRALIA
Tourism operators around Australia are hoping to see a return of road trips and shorter stays around Australia as part of the return to local holidays.
The expectation is that local trips towards the end of the year will be on the increase, as well as around the September school holidays.
Regions such as Queensland and the Whitsundays are set to be popular, as well as smaller coastal towns away from larger city locations.
On Tuesday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she welcomed the inclusion of the New Zealand Prime Minister in Tuesday’s National Cabinet meeting, noting she hoped to see discussions around domestic travel – including short recreational stays – in the near future.
“We know that unfortunately international travel is a mid- to long-term vision, and so if we can establish a hub between New Zealand and Australia, I think that would be a very positive move,” she said.
“I’m hoping we get to a stage where our state borders can be relaxed. We are already looking at interstate travel and I am very proud of the fact that we didn’t put a restriction on how far people could travel.
The South Australia Premier is hoping to allow travel within South Australia. Picture: SATC/Michael Waterhouse Local roaming, Escape, Dilvin YasaSource:Supplied
“We do want to encourage that interstate travel but we appreciate communities who have not had a case are very anxious about that as well, so it’s about finding the right balance. Once we maintain a significant level of control of the virus, confidence will increase (and) we will look at short stays and that will help with travel within NSW.”
South Australia has given local councils the green light to reopen playgrounds and skate parks and possibly even open borders to tourists once again.
The state’s total number of coronavirus cases remains at 438, with 98 per cent recovered.
Just seven cases are active, with three patients in hospital and none in intensive care.
Premier Steven Marshall said the state had done “particularly well” and the next challenge was to reboot the economy. Easing restrictions around funerals is high on the agenda of the South Australian government provided COVID-19 cases don’t climb.
Some parts of South Australia, including Kangaroo Island, have been hit by bushfires and now a lack of tourism because of COVID-19 restrictions.Source:Supplied
As part of rebooting the local economy, Senator Marshall said he was very keen to see regional tourism resume as soon as it was safe and welcomed by country communities.
“When it’s safe to do so, that will be one of our priority areas,” he told reporters on Sunday.
“I’m keen to see it happen because I know it’s going to create a lot of jobs.”
South Australia has been haemorrhaging almost $430 million a month, according to April figures released by Stafford Strategy research.
Parts of the state were hit by catastrophic bushfires earlier this year before the outbreak of the coronavirus and were unable to recover in between.
Last month, Senator Simon Birmingham said it would be “critical” for South Australians – and other visitors from across the country – to visit parts of the state to help the region recover.
“When travel restrictions are eased, for those who in a position to do so, it will be critical that we not only support destinations like Kangaroo Island and the Adelaide Hills who are still suffering from the impacts of the bushfires, but all our other tourism regions who are all doing it incredibly tough right now,” he said.
“Getting back into our tourism towns when it is safe to do so will be vital to the economic recovery of many businesses and to getting people back to work across the state.”
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