30 May 2021

Morrison set to arrive in Queenstown for first face to face meeting with Ardern since Covid-19

1:09 pm on 30 May 2021
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison with NZ PM Jacinda Ardern at Government House in Auckland

Scott Morrison and Jacinda Ardern at Government House in Auckland in February 2019. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

The Australian Prime Minister flies into Queenstown this afternoon, for one of Jacinda Ardern's first face to face leaders' meeting since Covid-19.

However, even with the trans-Tasman travel bubble operating, Scott Morrison's visit was still touch and go.

The Melbourne outbreak and Morrison's own presence there nearly derailed the visit, but the decision was made to proceed.

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown visited briefly in March; Morrison's trip is part of the annual Australia-New Zealand Leaders' Meeting - the last one in person was February 2020, when Ardern received news of New Zealand's first case of Covid-19.

This visit is set in the tourism jewel of Queenstown, a deliberate "double duty" choice, to host the leaders and give what was once a booming tourism mecca some much needed exposure.

It is also designed to play up the success of the two countries' Covid response - the two leaders maskless and meeting up close demonstrating just how far New Zealand and Australia have come compared to the rest of the world.

And there will be plenty to talk about - China and growing regional tensions, Australia's deportation policy and the path to citizenship, to name a few.

Jacinda Ardern arriving in Queenstown ahead of her meeting with Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Jacinda Ardern arriving in Queenstown ahead of her meeting with Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson

Ardern was "looking forward to welcoming Prime Minister Morrison back to New Zealand following a difficult year for both our countries through the pandemic".

"Our relationship with Australia is our closest and most important and this has never been more evident than in these trying times for the world," she said.

"Discussions will centre on how Australia and New Zealand will meet the shared challenges we face," said Ardern.

"The key focus of the meeting will of course be our Covid-19 recovery as well as how we continue working together on key regional and security issues."

Morrison reiterated that message: "Quarantine-free travel not only means the Prime Minister and I can hold our annual talks in person, it highlights that our travel bubble is seeing friends and family reunite across the ditch".

Covid-19 oubreaks around the world and in the region "are a reminder the virus still rages outside our borders", he said.

"That's why it's so important that we work closely with our partners like New Zealand to not only respond to the pandemic at home, but to support our friends and neighbours.

"Australia and New Zealand are family. This partnership will be even more vital in the years ahead as we both confront an increasingly challenging geostrategic environment," said Morrison.

"Our countries share values and common interests, and we want the same things for our family in the region."

During the visit, the two prime ministers will engage with Australian and New Zealand business, tourism, and community leaders and lay a wreath at the Arrowtown War Memorial.