A trans-Tasman bubble allowing travel between Australia and New Zealand could be open as early as December – but the states and territories will have to meet a high bar before the plan becomes reality.
Victoria, the Australian state worst-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, recorded just 16 new cases on Sunday – renewing hopes travel between the two countries could be on the horizon in the coming months.
Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said the plan to re-open travel was possible as long as strict protocols keeping arrivals from New Zealand away from other international travellers were put in place.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has previously said she would not consider a bubble unless the whole of Australia goes 28 days without community transmission.
Tourists at the popular Waiotapu geothermal region on New Zealand’s north island. Australia and New Zealand could open a trans-Tasman bubble as early as December
‘That would just be a great step and it would prove the work that is being done to make sure this can be done, again, in a safe way,’ Mr Birmingham said.
‘We’re making sure we have all the work done – all the preparations there – so we can safely achieve that bubble with New Zealand.
‘It’s up to them as to whether they choose to open up to Australia, but we’re certainly making sure that we’re prepared and I’m hopeful that could be this year.’
The tourism minister added ‘corridors’ and ‘clearances’ in airports in Australia and New Zealand would help separate travellers between the two countries and those from other parts of the world who would need to quarantine.
Mr Birmingham’s comments come as the coalition government announced it was providing $250 million to boost tourism and infrastructure in Australia’s regions.
The October 6 budget will set aside $50 million for a regional tourism recovery initiative to assist businesses in regions heavily reliant on international tourism.
Hopes travel between Australia and New Zealand could be on the horizon have been renewed by falling infection rates in Victoria
Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said the plan to restart travel between New Zealand and Australia could go ahead with strict airport controls separating flyers from the two countries with other travellers
Earlier on Sunday, it was reported travellers could be allowed to fly from New Zealand into New South Wales without quarantining as early as November.
The federal government will reportedly initially only allow New Zealand residents to fly in.
Transport and Tourism Forum chief executive Margy Osmond hopes flights between Sydney and Auckland will resume by November.
‘It would be fair to say that on both sides of the Tasman, work has been progressing at pace to make sure that when the health requirements are right, we are ready to go,’ she told the publication.
Pictured are passengers at Sydney International Airport on September 18 after flying in from Auckland
‘It would be a mistake to think that because there’s been a bit of a hiccup on their side and our side that work stopped — it hasn’t.’
NSW treasurer Dominic Perrottet added: ‘NSW is home to Australia’s only truly global city, and its economy is the engine room for the nation, so there’s no doubt our state should be a part of any trans-Tasman bubble.’
NSW is now allowed to take an additional 500 returned travellers a week in relaxed restrictions introduced on Sunday as the state recorded zero new coronavirus cases for the first time in four months.