AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is likely to be one of the first Australians to skip New Zealand’s quarantine queue when the long-awaited trans-Tasman bubble is finally launched.
Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, has announced the start date for quarantine-free travel for Australians to visit New Zealand.
“We were due to have our leader-level meeting at the beginning of the year. We had hoped to do that face-to-face,” she said in Wellington on April. 6.
The trans-Tasman PMs meet formally at the start of each year for the Australia-NZ Leaders’ Meeting, and it is Aotearoa’s turn to host in 2021. Rather than hold the meeting virtually, both countries have deferred the talks to allow for an in-person gathering.
“We both are keen to get on with it as soon as possible, and the venue is due to be New Zealand, and so we’re looking forward to welcoming him here at a date that can be mutually decided upon.”
Given all Australian states, save Western Australia, are already open to New Zealand visitors, this will effectively open the trans-Tasman bubble. With the bubble will come the resumption of tourism, reuniting families, and the return of business-as-usual diplomacy.
The two leaders spoke on Easter as New Zealand gears up for the border changes.
At the last meeting, Ardern chastised Morrison for Australia’s deportations policy. “Do not deport your people and your problems,” she said.
The New Zealand leader has not left the country since Morrison has traveled to Japan to meet new prime minister Yoshihide Suga.
Queenstown has been mooted as a possible venue given New Zealand’s need to spruik its suffering tourism industry.
“Those leader-level talks are always incredibly important to both sides,” Ardern said on Tuesday.
“I imagine that will be something we’ll set a date around in fairly short order.”
The Australia – New Zealand Leadership Forum (ANZLF) welcomed the announcement on their official Twitter handle.
“The ANZLF welcomes the announcement that two-way quarantine free trans-Tasman travel will commence 12 am NZST, April 18. Congrats, AUS and NZ governments who worked on an agreement, and those who worked with the ANZLF to make the blueprint for travel a reality,” read the tweet.
New Zealand’s 11-month journey to removing border restrictions for Australians started in March 2020, which began with closing the borders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ardern appears at a national cabinet meeting and with Scott Morrison in May 2020, where they agreed to open a trans-Tasman bubble when safe. Ardern gave her first timeline for a bubble, where she claimed Sept. is realistic.
Winston Peters, the then-deputy PM, calls for a state-by-state bubble, beginning with COVID-free Tasmania immediately. The major Victorian outbreak saw New Zealand put a pause on bubble hopes.
However, in December 2020, Ardern, in her last press conference of the year, claimed the government would scrap quarantine requirements for Australians in the first quarter of 2021. Later, Ardern abandoned the first-quarter goal and revealed a switch in strategy to a state-by-state approach — effectively adopting Australia’s hotspot strategy.
However, Ardern then finally, in April 2021, announced the removal date for quarantine measures for Australian travelers — creating the trans-Tasman bubble.
(Edited by Amrita Das and Pallavi Mehra)