16 Mar 2021

National calls for trans-Tasman travel to open immediately

2:33 pm on 16 March 2021

National leader Judith Collins says the prime minister will be responsible for the demise of Queenstown businesses if the trans-Tasman bubble is not opened.

Judith Collins

Judith Collins. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Her party has today launched a petition calling on the government to establish a quarantine-free travel arrangement immediately.

Collins said after a dozen rounds of talks between the two countries there was no reason it could not happen.

"We have at the moment Queenstown and other towns that are dependent on tourism are actually dying and if the prime minister doesn't essentially pull finger and get on with this we're going to end up with the death of Queenstown on her," she said.

The government needed to rebuild the tourism industry before it died, Collins said.

"We also need to reunite family members who can't get together again, who've been 12 months without being able to see each other, in some cases, we've certainly had people contact us about family members in New Zealand who are dying and they can't get back, people on the phone crying that they can't get to see their mother who's in hospice; because they can't get an MIQ spot, and of course, the fact is they shouldn't have if they're coming out of Australia."

The government had earlier indicated the trans-Tasman bubble would open before the end of this month, but that is looking increasingly unlikely.

But the government maintained that formal talks between the two countries have not fallen over.

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said original plans for the bubble had evolved but denied talks had collapsed.

"We're very clear about where Australia is at, we now need to respond to that, that includes discussions at a state-by-state level, I'm very confident we can now put ourselves in a position where we'll be able to make progress on this but the characterisation is not one I'd accept, those discussions were very important, we now know where we're at, we'll use that as the basis for what we're able to do now," Roberstson said.

He said the government wanted to ensure there were consistent arrangements in the event of an outbreak in either country.

The Australian government is also working on a plan to create a travel bubble with Singapore.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday said the issue of Singapore having a bubble with Australia had been on the table for a long time, and had not stopped New Zealand working on a trans-Tasman bubble.

Singapore was going to steal the march on New Zealand, Collins said.

"We're going to have Singapore and Australia in a safe travel zone and New Zealand will be an outlier sitting by ourselves with possibly the Cooks and that's about it, the way we're going at the moment," she said.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs