Pressure from Australia for the government to adopt a two-way trans-Tasman travel bubble is once again blowing-up.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the country is ready for that bubble.
“If the New Zealand government doesn’t wish Australians to visit New Zealand and spend money in Queenstown or Wellington, or other parts of a country, that’s a matter for them, it has always been a matter for them.
“I’m happy for them to open it up as soon as the Prime Minister and her government would like to do that,” he said.
He said the one-way bubble had been benefiting the Australian economy and tourism and aviation sector.
“If Australians can’t go to Queenstown, I’m hoping they can go to Cairns.”
New Zealand’s Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins could not, however, say when a bubble would be in place when asked by National during Question Time.
This is despite the government stating last year that it intended to have a bubble in the early part of this year.
“The timing around the travel bubble is a dynamic thing and I cannot guarantee that it will be open by the end of the month,” Hipkins said.
He said an agreement was yet to be reached between the two countries on what would happen to travellers if the safe travel zone was suspended.
“It could well mean we have tens of thousands of people unable to travel home and we need to be clear about what will happen in those circumstances,” he said.
National told the government to hurry up and open the borders to Australia, with leader Judith Collins saying she could not understand why the government was dragging its feet.
“We’ve got the Australian government able to take New Zealanders to go and spend money or work in Australia.
“What I am seeing from Scott Morrison is a leader who knows how to lead,” she said.
Collins said Tourism New Zealand estimated the bubble, combined with domestic tourism, would see tourism spend return to 70 percent of pre-covid levels.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern defended the decision to not yet give a two way bubble the green light.
“As much as we absolutely appreciate just how hard hit our tourism sector has been, what I know that they also want us to preserve is our reputation as a place that continues to operate with as many freedoms as possible,” she said.
Ardern said she did not want to jeopardise those freedoms, but the government would continue to investigate the opportunity of having a bubble.