Australians will have to wait until next month to find out when they can fly to New Zealand again without quarantining, after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said more time was needed to set up a new trans-Tasman travel bubble.
Ms Ardern told a press conference in New Zealand today that she would reveal a date for the start of quarantine-free travel between the two countries on April 6.
“We don’t have a date for you,” Ms Ardern said.
She said more time was needed to set up the final framework of an agreement and determine arrangements such as contact tracing measures and managed isolation facilities.
Last night, the federal government amended the legislation relating to Australia’s travel ban to exclude people flying to New Zealand, paving the way for the travel bubble.
Previously Australians had to apply for an exemption to travel anywhere overseas, including New Zealand.
Ms Ardern said that initial country-to-country negotiations had turned to state-by-state discussions.
“Our view is, rather than trying to work through a solution that sees all of Australia with New Zealand, that we can work through an arrangement that sees us operating with some states but not others,” she said.
She said that there may still be border closures in the future, despite the bubble.
“We want to keep this open, we want to keep it moving, but we also want to keep both sides safe.
“So there may be occasions when we take a precautionary approach and for short periods of time travel ceases.”
Australia’s border has been mostly open to New Zealanders since last October, with a few short suspensions when there were small coronavirus outbreaks in Auckland.
But New Zealand has delayed returning the favour because of the higher number of COVID cases in Australia.
Pressure has been mounting on the New Zealand government to allow Australians entry as the country’s tourism sector struggles without international visitors.
The opposition National Party is calling for quarantine-free travel with Australia to start immediately.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said earlier this month that a two-way travel arrangement was in New Zealand’s hands.