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Advisory group says Australia-New Zealand travel bubble could be in place in months
The plan for a ‘Trans-Tasman bubble’ to allow Australians and New Zealanders to travel between the two countries could be presented to both governments as early as next week, and could be operational by September, the expert working group behind the proposal has advised.
With the governments of both nations having been discussing the possibility of a ‘travel bubble’ between the countries as both have - to date - slowed the spread of COVID-19, to levels well below those seen in the United States and Europe.
On Wednesday, the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, said in conversations with her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison there was enthusiasm from both sides for travel to resume.
Prime Minister Ardern stated “we are working to move on this as quickly as we can. We are both very keen on it ... across both sides of the ditch.
“It won’t be too long before we are ready.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pledged to “consider” establishing the safe travel zone in July as part of the federal government’s third phase of easing travel restrictions.
The Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group - a 40-strong advisory panel which includes representatives made up of 11 government agencies, six airports and two airlines, health experts and border agencies - has been working on a detailed proposal to allow the two countries to re-open their borders with each other.
It says it will be ready to present the plan to both governments in “early June”.
Co-chair of the group, Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) Chief Executive Margy Osmond, said a national survey conducted by the TTF showed Australians were keen to travel again once restrictions were eased, particularly domestic and short-haul international travel.
Osmond advised “not surprisingly New Zealand tops the list of countries people would like to visit and they consider it no more risky than travelling interstate.
“This is a strong endorsement of plans for a Trans-Tasman bubble allowing travel between the two countries and we would be expecting that to commence as early as September.”
Australians represent largest segment of incoming visitors to New Zealand, accounting for 40% of all foreign arrivals. Similarly, Australia is the most popular destination for New Zealanders travelling overseas.
Industry group Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) has welcomed the development, with Chief Executive Chris Roberts commenting “it’s great to see the progress being made to open the trans-Tasman travel bubble.
“TIA has had representation on one of the work streams leading this project, and a very robust proposal is being brought together.
“Officials and ministers will need to respond quickly, as every day matters for businesses who need access to customers, and for family and friends wanting to connect.
“The sooner we can safely welcome our Australian visitors again, the more jobs and businesses we will save across New Zealand.”
Fiji has also indicated it wants to join the potential Australasia travel bubble in an effort to restart its tourism sector.
With its economy hugely dependent on tourism, Fiji’s Attorney-General and Economy Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum told the Australian Financial Review earlier this week that the nation has had a very low number of Coronavirus cases, recording its last infection a month ago.
Minister Aiyaz stated “we embarked on the largest health mobilisation campaign in Fijian history, with nearly 95% of our population screened by medical teams going door to door to take temperatures and check for symptoms.
“A travel bubble that includes Fiji alongside Australia and New Zealand would do far more good than any aid or assistance.”
Images: Air New Zealand (top) and TTF's MArgy Osmond (below).
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