6 Aug 2020

NZ airport readies for Cooks bubble as islands fear youth flight

2:43 pm on 6 August 2020

New Zealand's largest airport says it'll be ready to operate a travel bubble with Covid-free Pacific countries by the 17 August, if given the green-light.

Auckland Airport

Auckland Airport Photo: 123RF

Business groups and some Pacific countries, including the Cook Islands, have been urging the New Zealand government to open travel with some parts of the region.

Auckland Airport's Mick Cottrell said a safe travel zone was doable.

"In 14 days time, if we got a flight from Rarotonga it would have a whole pier at the airport to itself and it will have 10 air-bridges to pull up at."

Cottrell said the airport could separate passengers from Covid-free countries and those arriving into quarantine.

The Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce said the country risked losing many young people to New Zealand if a safe travel corridor was not opened soon.

Chamber president Fletcher Melvin said tourism accounted for 85 percent of the Cook Islands GDP last year, an industry that had evaporated with the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Melvin said if a travel bubble didn't open soon, young people would look to New Zealand for their future.

"We're going to have a lot of school leavers coming out of school that won't have employment opportunities and that's going to put a lot of stress on the system.

"That's one of the key areas that we are worried about, about losing our youth when the borders open," he said.

"I mean there is a possibility that a lot of our youth could end up leaving for New Zealand."

The President of the Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce, Fletcher Melvin

The President of the Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce, Fletcher Melvin Photo: CI Govt