28 Jul 2020

Cook Islands not giving up on NZ 'air-bridge'

4:51 pm on 28 July 2020

The Cook Islands government says it is continuing to work hard to get a so-called air-bridge cleared with New Zealand.

For a third consecutive week the two governments delayed announcing details of such an arrangment which would lead to the relaxation of borders between the countries.

Local tourism operators had expressed disappointment at the lack of progress.

However the Cook Islands Deputy Prime Minister, Mark Brown, pointed out that despite the delay the air border had been open for six weeks to returning residents who had previously been in New Zealand for 30 days.

Cook Islands Finance Minister Mark Brown

Cook Islands finance minister Mark Brown Photo: Cook Islands News

"Our border controls are our first line of defence, and so far have proven to be successful," he said.

"Our public health and industry readiness continues to develop at pace. We have launched the Cook Islands Promise as our joint commitment between hosts and guests to safeguard the health of our island communities and our visitors."

"We are confident that both our systems and NZ systems are protecting us", he added.

A statement from the minister's office said discussions were continuing "at pace".

It said easing border restrictions was critical to resuscitate the economy and the social wellbeing of the Cook Islands.

"While in New Zealand tourism income makes up about 6% of the GDP, in our country tourism is our main industry and makes up 75 to 80% of GDP".

"It must not be underestimated that our tourism sector also provides a net economic benefit to New Zealand through the importation of its food and other products and the purchase of services from New Zealand based travel wholesalers and airlines."

Mr Brown said once the air-bridge was in place, visitors from a country that had eliminated community transmission of the coronavirus would be free to travel to a "Covid-19 free island paradise".

Rarotonga airport

Cook Islanders are hoping to see the return of NZ tourists soon Photo: RNZI Walter Zweifel