4 Jun 2020

Trans-Tasman travel bubble trial touted for July by Chambers of Commerce

2:03 pm on 4 June 2020

Business leaders on both sides of the ditch have proposed a trial run of the trans-Tasman bubble which would see flights between Wellington and Canberra take off by July.

Flight information, arrival, departure at the airport, London, England

The proposal is separate from the one being developed by the Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group. Photo: 123RF

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Canberra Airport today opened a register of interest for the first flights on 1 and 2 July, but the plan has yet to get sign-off by Kiwi or Australian authorities.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last month said September was a "realistic" time frame to restart flights, but Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters has been agitating for a much quicker move.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry executive chair John Hart told RNZ the industry believed a July start-date for "a back-to-business flight" was do-able.

"We want to see this happen sooner than later," Hart said.

"It's absolutely vital that we get some flow back into businesses either side of the Tasman."

Under the proposal, the Wellington-Canberra route would operate for several weeks before being extended to other destinations around both countries.

All passengers would be pre-tested for Covid-19 before boarding and would have to follow local rules and restrictions on arrival.

In a statement, Auckland Business Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett said the test flights would be critical to demonstrating proper safeguards were in place to prevent a second-wave of Covid-19.

"New Zealand needs Aussies back here as our single most important visitors, all 1.5 million of them, supporting our tourism sector, our cafes and events decimated by the enforced shutdown," Barnett said.

"We need to not just say we are open for business, but be able to roll out the welcome mat."

Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron said Air New Zealand and Qantas would be given first preference to run the flight.

In this afternoon's conference on Covid-19, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said he was not aware of the trial but that once a decision was made by officials then it would be tested thoroughly on both sides.

"I know that a full range of players - of both the public and private sector - have been involved in getting the plans down to a level of detail that would allow that to happen."

A spokesperson for Air New Zealand said the airline did not intend to operate the route, adding that international travel would resume "once border restrictions have been lifted".

The proposal is separate from the one being developed by the Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group, an expert working group established by the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum.

The bilateral group - which consists of health experts and airline staff - said it would soon be ready to present its blueprint for a trans-Tasman travel bubble soon.

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