Businesswoman and pro-bubble lobbyist Ann Sherry called for quarantine-free travel to be in place by mid-April, at the latest.
Talk of bubbles with Singapore and other Asian nations should be parked until Australians and Kiwis can cross the Tasman without the need to quarantine in a hotel for two weeks at either end, said Ms Sherry, who is co-chair of the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum.
“Singapore has become a distraction,” Ms Sherry said.
“A bubble with Singapore may well come to pass, but that is miles behind the conversation we’ve been having with New Zealand. All the work has been done with New Zealand, and that’s where the priority lies. Once that bubble is up and running, we can use the experience to build on that with Asia.
“[Deputy Prime Minister] Michael McCormack has been talking lately about bubbles with Singapore and other Asian nations like Japan and Korea. But we don’t want to get too diverted just yet.”
Ms Sherry and other industry leaders have been in talks with New Zealand on the bubble since mid-2020.
One-way quarantine-free travel from New Zealand was successfully established in October. Since then, more than 24,000 passengers have arrived in Australia.
Australia is New Zealand’s single largest source of tourists each year, with 1.5 million people travelling across the Tasman in 2019. More than 1.4 million New Zealanders returned the favour by visiting Australia.
Ms Ardern’s Deputy Prime Minister, Grant Robertson, has hinted at two-way travel starting soon.
“We were working towards a joint framework, a joint set of protocols, but actually I don’t think we’re too far off being able to create the New Zealand version to match up with the Australian version,” he said.
“There are still a few issues to be ironed out, such as how the countries would handle fresh outbreaks.”
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said Australia had finalised its plans.
Air New Zealand added Hobart as its tenth Australian destination on Friday, with plans for a twice-weekly service between Hobart and Auckland once quarantine-free travel is up and running.
Once contracts and regulatory approval are in place, Air New Zealand will fly year-round between Auckland and Hobart on its A320neo fleet with tickets on sale once the trans-Tasman is operational.