5 Oct 2020

New Cooks PM expects NZ travel bubble by December

9:41 pm on 5 October 2020

The Cook Islands prime minister says he expects quarantine-free travel with New Zealand to be in place by December.

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown Photo: Phillipa Webb / Cook Islands News

Mark Brown, who became prime minister late last week after Henry Puna stood down, said his country had confirmed formal arrangements for a travel bubble with New Zealand.

He said there were still a few finer technical points to iron out, and that officials still had to assess the protocols the Cook Islands had put in place.

Brown said that once New Zealand had gone 28 days without community transmission of Covid-19, the two countries would be in a position to initiate quarantine-free travel.

He told the Cook Islands News that he expected the arrangement to begin with a trickle of tourists, but that as the Christmas period ensued, the demand to travel to Cook Islands would be "tremendous".

The New Zealand government was yet to comment. However, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reportedly discussed a possible bubble arrangement with Brown when she called him last week to congratulate him on becoming her Cook Islands counterpart.

Aerial landscape view of the beautiful Muri Lagoon and a Motu (Islet) in Rarotonga Island in the Cook Islands.

Photo: Rafael Ben-Ari/ 123RF

In July, talks towards creating an Auckland-to-Rarotonga travel bubble were well advanced, with officials from New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs due to travel to the Cook Islands to make final checks.

However the emergence of a Covid-19 cluster in Auckland in early August meant the travel bubble concept was put on ice.