5 Jun 2020

Cook Islands to reopen borders

10:29 am on 5 June 2020

The Cook Islands will reopen its borders to Cook Islanders and work permit holders in two weeks, the Prime Minister Henry Puna has announced.

The prime minister of the Cook Islands, Henry Puna.

The prime minister of the Cook Islands, Henry Puna. Photo: RNZ / Jamie Tahana

From June 19, Cook Islanders and work permit holders who have been in New Zealand for the past 30 days and want to return home, or take up or resume employment, will be eligible. They will not be required to go into quarantine.

The Cook Islands News reports officials are also working to enable the return of those travelling from outside New Zealand, including work permit holders stranded in Australia and the Philippines.

Tourism and business operators are hailing it as a step in the right direction - they especially welcome Mr Puna's push for a reopening for Kiwi tourists when New Zealand lowers its lockdown status to level 1.

The Prime Minister said they were working alongside New Zealand officials to set in place travel opportunities for other New Zealand citizens in the near future.

New Zealand officials have said Cook Islands and Niue could potentially join Australia in a safe travel "bubble" with New Zealand - the first such travel bubble in the world.

A Cook Islands couple, John and Julia Evans hailed the news.

"That's really good news for our family, we're obviously been very keen to get home," John Evans said.

The couple, their son Orlan and newborn baby daughter Nova-Jack Teoukura have been stuck in Christchurch since Julia gave birth in lockdown.

"I'm currently on the way to taking our oldest son to school tutoring lessons, as we've been unsure when we can get him back to school."