TransTasman bubble plan hits turbulence

Calls are increasing for a travel bubble between the two countries. Photo: Getty
Calls are increasing for a travel bubble between the two countries. Photo: Getty
Plans by Australian and New Zealand business groups to create a Wellington-Canberra travel bubble have been described as ''curious'' by the government-sanctioned group that's been working for weeks on the project.

Chambers of commerce on both sides of the Tasman said today they would take a detailed proposal to link the capitals to both governments this week.

But the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum, which is backed by the two governments, says the new proposal has come out of the blue.

"This is a somewhat curious proposal, but it is not in any way linked to the Government-endorsed process,'' said Scott Tasker, co-chair of the Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group and Auckland Airport's general manager aeronautical commercial.

The 40-strong bilateral group is consists of government health experts and staff from border agencies, airlines and airports.

Tasker said it had been working solidly for three weeks to come up with a detailed proposal to put to government for the safe and sustainable re-opening of the border.

This proposal is now in its final stages of development.

Canberra Airport has no involvement with the safe border group.

Air New Zealand has distanced itself from the proposal from the chambers of commerce.

''Air New Zealand is not proposing Tasman operations until such time that the Tasman borders are open, and only with the support of governments on both sides,'' the airline said.

''We appreciate that both businesses and travellers are enthusiastic about operations – and we assure customers that as soon as it is possible to operate, Air New Zealand will be ready to return to the Tasman.''

Chambers of commerce on both sides of the Tasman say the first flight between Wellington and Canberra would be for a group of politicians, business people and journalists, followed by a regular service between the two cities.

The push comes amid growing pressure to open up air travel between the two nations.

Travellers on either side of the Tasman will be encouraged to register with the respective tracking apps of the two countries.

The Australian understands the office of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly and a number of cabinet ministers and government agencies and departments have been consulted about ACCI's plan.

Australia's Trade and Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham told the Australian he was confident the move would work.

Air travel between the countries would offer a huge boost to the ailing tourism industry in New Zealand.

A recent survey of Australians found New Zealand had shot up the wish list of travel destinations.

Australia was New Zealand's largest source of visitors with 1.5 million arrivals last year and is seen as a market that could help tourism here recover — if border restrictions come off.

With both countries doing a good job of controlling the spread of Covid-19, the calls are intensifying for a travel bubble between the two countries.

Auckland Business Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett said regular flights between Canberra and Wellington as the first step to prove systems and processes are in place for safe and effective movement of people between the two countries.

"We need to help the survival, recovery and sustainability of our vital tourism, export, event and travel sector and instead of talking about bursting the bubble, we have a plan to give consumers and governments confidence that we can bet back to business," Barnett said.

"We feed each other and we need each other's dollars urgently to help with economic recovery. New Zealand needs Aussies back here as our single most important visitors, supporting our tourism sector, our cafes and events decimated by the enforced shutdown.''

Barnett said test flights would not only be a symbolic link between the two nations' capital and sister cities but critical to demonstrating that there are processes and safeguards in place to keep Covid-19 at bay and allow the free movement of people.

"Following the successful implementation of flights between Canberra and Wellington over a number of weeks, and the thorough evaluation of the systems and processes in place, we believe that further destinations around the Australian and New Zealand network could open.''

Barnett said New Zealand needed to not just say we are open for business but be able to roll out the welcome mat.

Comments

Australia still has nearly 500 active cases, community transmission and ineffective track and trace systems.
Qld, WA, SA, Tas and NT still will not allow entry from NSW and Vic.
NZ could allow tourists from those states and territories, but NSW and Victoria need to be excluded until they catch up with managing the disease. There are still people in Australia pushing for a Herd Immunity policy.
Also, Greece and Israel are both pushing for access to Australia now. Opening to Australia is opening up to Australian border controls, and if tRump tells Morrison to open the borders to the US, Morrison will not have the courage to say no.
Australia is not to be trusted, and the tourists coming in to NZ are balanced by the tourists going to Aus. Only the airlines win.

TDS much? Of the last remaining cases in Australia, only 5 are in hospital. It's all but over there now too. And you can bet your bottom Renminbi, that the Morrison Gov. won't let a single overseas passenger in until 100% safe...

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