Australia travel bubble approved in principle

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a travel bubble with Australia has been approved in principle for the first quarter of next year.

At today's post-Cabinet press conference she said the travel bubble going ahead was contingent on Australia's Cabinet approval and no change in the Covid-19 situation.

There were issues to be worked through, including contingencies for a Covid-19 outbreak in Australia, and separation of passengers from countries outside the bubble.

A precise date would be announced in the new year.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said if there was an outbreak in Australia more than 10,000 New Zealanders would likely need to be brought home.

Mr Hipkins would visit Auckland Airport tomorrow to see how they plan to organise segregating travellers.

That would be too much for New Zealand's isolation facilities to handle, so alternative arrangements would be needed.

Ardern reflected on the first post-Cabinet of this year when they first discussed Covid-19 and soon organised a repatriation flight from Wuhan.

New Zealand had the lowest mortality rate and the lowest number of active cases in the OECD and New Zealanders should be proud, Ardern said.

"None of that is to say our response has been perfect - it hasn't."

Ardern said this morning there were still a "number of issues" to work through with the transtasman bubble and she would give more details at the conference at 2pm.

She told TVNZ's Breakfast one of the considerations to be resolved was the possibility that if there was a Covid-19 outbreak in Australia and New Zealand closed its borders, there would still the ability to bring Kiwis back.

"We have to make decisions on how we potentially quarantine thousands of returning individuals who would then need to come back," Ardern said.

"We would need to know how we're dealing with the internal borders with Australia and also we would have to have the airlines ready. We are quite keen to see segregated airline staff for quarantine-free travel."

Ardern said the issues were "not insurmountable".

Queensland is the latest Australian state to allow New Zealanders to travel there quarantine-free, alongside Victoria.

Ardern announced last week she and her Cook Islands counterpart Mark Brown had instructed officials to continue working together to put in place all measures required to safely recommence two-way quarantine-free travel in the first quarter of next year.

It has also been reported an initial deal on the standoff over Ihumātao will go to Cabinet today but Ardern has said there would not be an announcement today.

RNZ reported that it understood the deal was for Fletcher Building to sell the land to the Government, the first step in reaching a resolution; with agreement from Fletchers and Kīngitanga, on behalf of mana whenua.

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