Foreign Affairs

NZ, Australia confirm trans-Tasman bubble plans

After attending a virtual meeting of the Australian national Cabinet on Tuesday, Jacinda Ardern has formally announced with Scott Morrison that the two nations are making plans for a trans-Tasman travel bubble, Marc Daalder reports

New Zealanders may join a new bubble in the coming months - one of 25 million people.

On Tuesday, Jacinda Ardern and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the two countries are making plans for a trans-Tasman travel bubble.

"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," the Prime Ministers said in a statement.

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis said on Tuesday that industry leaders had placed the trans-Tasman travel agreement at the head of their wishlist, alongside clarity about the wage subsidy and domestic travel arrangements under Level 2.

The announcement came after days of speculation and after Ardern virtually attended part of a meeting of Australia's national Cabinet, consisting of federal officials and representatives of the country's six states. This was the first time a New Zealand prime minister attended an Australian Cabinet meeting since Peter Fraser sat in on Australia's war Cabinet in the 1940s.

The travel bubble is still some way away from becoming a reality, with officials stressing Covid-19 must be under control in both countries and health, transport and other protocols must be developed.

"Building on our success so far in responding to Covid-19, continuing to protect Australians and New Zealanders remains an absolute priority. We will remain responsive to the health situation as it develops," Ardern and Morrison said.

"We need to be cautious as we progress this initiative. 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."

The announcement came after New Zealand announced for the second consecutive day that it had zero new cases of Covid-19, for the first time in nearly two months. In Australia, however, cases are spiking due to an outbreak at a meat processing plant in Victoria.

The bubble could also eventually be opened up to Pacific Island states, Ardern and Morrison said.

"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."

Help us create a sustainable future for independent local journalism

As New Zealand moves from crisis to recovery mode the need to support local industry has been brought into sharp relief.

As our journalists work to ask the hard questions about our recovery, we also look to you, our readers for support. Reader donations are critical to what we do. If you can help us, please click the button to ensure we can continue to provide quality independent journalism you can trust.

With thanks to our partners