From July 1, Australians could be permitted to travel to New Zealand and the Pacific, according to timetable shared by the Tourism Restart Taskforce.
On May 22, the taskforce met with the federal government who approved the timetable, which has proposed dates for the recommencement of domestic and international travel.
On Wednesday the taskforce submitted an official plan, which outlined that the first flight would be between Canberra and Wellington, departing on July 1. Passengers would not be required to quarantine for 14 days.
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John Hart, the Chair of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Tourism said on Wednesday: “We are saying that New Zealand travel will definitely commence on July 1 and from 10 September we will consider whether other bubbles can commence.”
If approved, it is understood that the first flight will carry government officials, as well as people who work in business and media.
Scott Morrison has pledged to “consider” the travel in July as part of the third and final step of his COVID-19 roadmap.
The taskforce plans to work with the Department of Health in order to decide which countries could be deemed ‘safe’ from September. According to the proposed timetable, all international travel would start up again from December 15.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is eager to move “as soon as it is safe to do so” and called the establishment of the bubble “a core plank in our economic recovery”.
“Neither country wants to see cases imported from the other,” Ardern said.
On Wednesday, New Zealand recorded another day without new COVID-19 cases; just one case has been found in the past 10 days.
That has allowed Ardern to relax gathering restrictions, with caps of 100 on all social engagements to come into force from Friday.
“We now have some of the loosest restrictions of the countries we compare ourselves to … the opening of bars and restaurants,” she said.
“What we’re hoping to do is be free of almost all restrictions altogether within four weeks.”
What is the ‘Trans-Tasman’ bubble?
A ‘Trans-Tasman bubble’ is an idea first floated as a prospect by Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand and Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters on April 15.
“Our figures with Australia, it’s almost as if we’ve got a Trans-Tasman bubble between our two countries, and if the figures keep on going that way, then that is a serious possibility,” he said.
“We are exploring that as we speak.”
At first Prime Minister Scott Morrison seemed unconvinced, saying he was aware of New Zealand’s interest but the government was “not at present contemplating any border changes”.
The government’s interest seems to have quickly changed, with Morrison saying the following week “if there is any country in the world with whom we can reconnect with first, undoubtedly that’s New Zealand”.
On April 27, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton also talked up the idea. He said “an arrangement with New Zealand” would be one of the first things to examine, in regards to “steps toward making sure that people could travel safely”.
“New Zealand would be the natural partner,” he said, adding that he thinks it would be “logical in the short-to-medium term”.
Ardern cautioned at the beginning of May: “Don’t expect this to happen in a couple of weeks time. As you can imagine we need to make sure we are locking in the gains that all New Zealanders have helped us achieve, and make sure we have health precautions in place to make sure we do this safely, and well.”
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What would the Trans-Tasman bubble look like?
Opening up travel routes would be majorly beneficial to both economies: New Zealanders are the second biggest visitors to Australia after China – 1.43 million Kiwis made the trip and injected a total of $2.6 billion into the economy in 2019, according to Tourism Australia data, and New Zealand is the number one outbound destination for Australian travellers.
Travel between both countries is also a major route for business travel and VFR: visiting friends and relatives, so the routes benefit from high demand which will have pent-up during the pandemic.
– With AAP
– Feature image via Getty