A travel bubble between New Zealand and New South Wales could be open within weeks, according to reports out of Australia.
But travel inside the bubble would initially only be one-way with Kiwis heading to Australia, and restricted to those living in the South Island.
With community outbreaks of coronavirus in hand both here and in the premier state, the federal government would initially only allow for Kiwi residents to come to Australia, according to a report from the Sunday Telegraph.
Those travellers wouldn’t be required to quarantine once they arrived in Australia.
It’s expected New South Wales residents would later be able to also travel here by Christmas time.
This morning Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told TVNZ1’s Breakfast this morning a state-by-state trans-Tasman bubble was “possible” before Christmas.
News.com.au is reporting the federal government has approached the New South Wales government to discuss different options.
At the same time Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters is talking up the transtasman bubble saying he’s optimistic there could be limited travel between the two countries before Christmas.
Ardern confirmed work had been underway for weeks on the prospect of forming a bubble, and the ability to move between parts of both countries that were not affected by Covid-19.
She told NewstalkZB’s Mike Hosking earlier discussions with the Australian Prime Minister looked at a “hotspot arrangement” between the two countries.
“We were always open to this. Our view was that we would always be able to get movement between Australia and New Zealand open sooner if they were taking a hotspot or state-by-state approach.
The speed on getting it underway would depend on excluding states where Covid was still disrupting communities, citing Victoria, and assurances there were firm borders between those states with infected communities and those you were opening up travel with.
“And then you’ve also got to make sure you’ve got routes that do not have transit passengers on them,” said Ardern.
“Currently everything that’s coming in and out of Australia and New Zealand has travellers coming in and out of Covid areas so you have to completely segregate those fliers.”
She confirmed work had continued all the way through to setting up safe travel arrangements.
“This recent hotspot decision by Australia, they working around detail on their side about what that would look like, whether or not they would include all of New Zealand or whether they would include hotspots for us too.”
She said it was important to know how Australia was dealing with border issues before any flights took off but gave no timeframe for this to happen.
It was something she would be raising with Scott Morrison when they spoke next.
“We had an early discussion about what that would mean for New Zealand and the transtasman bubble and I expect we’ll discuss that again soon,” she said.
Australian Federal Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Simon Birmingham yesterday said he hoped Aussies would be able to travel to New Zealand by the end of 2020.
“We’re working hard to make sure every safety precaution and measure is in place through our airports, our border protections, screening processes, to make sure people can travel safely between Australia and New Zealand without risk of encountering other air travellers that may be coming in from higher risk countries.
“Ultimately, whether New Zealand opens up to Australia will be a matter for New Zealand, but we are working to make sure we’re ready and hopefully we can see those steps taken this year.”
The travel bubble would at first only be open to residents of the South Island — as the country deals with a cluster of cases on the North Island.
Peters yesterday said work on transtasman travel arrangements has sped up in recent weeks and that Tasmania and Queensland would likely be the first states to open up for travellers from New Zealand.
“We’re going as hard as we possibly can and it depends still on Australia and the assurance that the protocols are sound enough but I think it’s honestly, sooner rather than later now.
“It’s the Victorian situation that’s our greatest concern but I think we can be certain that, whereas some were saying by Christmas, we should be able to do it much sooner than that.”
He says he would “like to think” it would happen within weeks.
Previously Ardern scotched any talk of a transtasman travel bubble, saying Australia’s coronavirus community transmission levels had been too high to contemplate opening her nation to its citizens.
“One of the things we said as part of our criteria was that anywhere we have quarantine-free travel, they have to be free of community transmission for a period of time, 28 days.
“That is going to take a long time for Australia to get back to that place.”
– additional reporting, Lynley Bilby, rnz