7 Apr 2021

Trans-Tasman bubble: Govt hopes for economic boost from Australian tourists

6:27 am on 7 April 2021

Pack your bags, book your flights - the trans-Tasman bubble will be open for business in less than two weeks.

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New Zealand will operate the bubble on a state by state basis with Australia, but it comes with a warning - "flyer beware". Photo: James Coleman/ Unsplash

As well the travel arrangement reconnecting friends and family, the government's eyeing an economic boost from the floods of cashed up Australian tourists who can start visiting without having to isolate from 19 April.

New Zealand will operate the bubble on a state by state basis with Australia, but it comes with a warning - "flyer beware".

A traffic light system lays out what New Zealanders could be expected to do if there's an outbreak in Australia - a key one - don't rely on the government to bail you out if you get stranded.

Tourism and other businesses are breathing a massive sigh of relief, hoping the bubble will bring in some much-needed revenue.

It was only a month ago Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was ribbing New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern about not wanting Australian tourists while the bubble negotiations dragged on.

Now he says the announcement is a "win win", taking the opportunity again to point out New Zealand is late to the party.

"It was six months ago, almost, that Australia opened up to New Zealand and I'm very pleased that the New Zealand government has decided that two way travel will commence Monday fortnight," he told reporters.

In 2019 Australians made up 40 percent of tourists and they spent $2 billion. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says it's estimated that spending will recover to about 80 percent of that by next year.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said feedback from the business community was they're mostly looking forward to the "ability to do those short trips to be able to do business, a two, three day trip", so the bubble probably won't help industries crying out for skilled labour.

National leader Judith Collins 17/02/21

Judith Collins Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

ACT leader David Seymour said the government was "long on self-congratulation but late on delivery ... but Jacinda Ardern couldn't treat us like lucky little prisoners any longer".

"We know the bubble will work and it will improve the lives of countless New Zealanders and Australians.

"It's how the Australian states have been working for months and there is no excuse for New Zealand being so late to join," he said.

While welcoming the news, National leader Judith Collins also questioned why it's taken so long.

And she said this should not be a case of "job done".

"This should be the first step in the government laying out its roadmap for how it plans to safely reconnect New Zealand to the world," said Collins, including "quarantine-free travel from Samoa, Tonga and Fiji into New Zealand, alongside our realm countries".

"This would have a similar benefit of reconnecting families as well as the added economic benefit of rescuing New Zealand's horticulture industry by increasing the size of our Recognised Seasonal Workers scheme."

There was no apology for the time taken from Ardern, despite the desperate calls from sectors like tourism and horticulture.

"As much as I know that our tourism cities and towns really want the return of Australians, I know they equally do not want the return of Covid full-stop, and if we didn't get this right they could have the worst of both worlds."

There had been high expectations a trans-Tasman bubble would free up hundreds of places in managed isolation - always in hot demand.

That's not going to be the case. While the bubble will mean 1000 to 1300 fewer people coming through each fortnight, 500 will be kept aside as contingency for the bubble, and some facilities could be decommissioned.

Among those appealing for help are migrant families with family members still unable to join them in New Zealand.

Ardern says Cabinet is looking at whether the rules can be relaxed - but is making no promises.

"What we need to do is make sure than when we do that, it's not giving false hope, that we don't have the capacity to manage it," she said.

Quarantine-free travel with Australia is now in the bag - so what next.

The realm countries - the Cook Islands in particular - is next on the list, and Niue when it decides it's ready to take arrivals from New Zealand.

Further to that Ardern says there are no active plans for a travel bubble with any other countries.

But there are active plans for a visit from Scott Morrison.

The trans-Tasman Prime Ministers take turns visiting each others' countries - during last year's visit to Sydney Ardern was informed of New Zealand's first case of Covid-19.

Morrison is likely to be here for a visit "soon", and would be hosted somewhere Ardern says had "previously enjoyed high levels of international tourists" and needs to be put back onto the world stage.

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