Isolation rules ‘killing’ tourism industry remnants, mayor says

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult says isolation requirements are "killing" what remains of the region’s tourism industry and is asking the Government to urgently review its policies.

In a letter sent to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Tourism Minister Stuart Nash on Wednesday, Mr Boult said it was time for them to "have confidence in our vaccinated status and travel testing on departure, and recognise that overseas arrivals do not present an undue risk".

It was sent on the day the Government announced that from January 17, fully vaccinated New Zealanders would be able to travel from Australia without having to go through managed isolation, and from February 13 they could travel from all other countries.

However, they would still be required to self-isolate for seven days and it would not be until late April other fully vaccinated travellers could come into the country with-
out managed isolation.

All travellers would require a negative Covid test, proof of vaccination and a declaration they had not been in very high-risk countries.

They, too, would need to self-isolate for seven days and would also require regular testing after arrival.

Mr Boult said in his letter while they were positive moves, they would not assist the tourism industry.

"It is highly unlikely that an overseas visitor with a two-week holiday period will elect to spend half of that time self-isolating in a hotel room as part of an experience in our country."

He contended fully vaccinated and tested visitors from "safe" parts of the world coming to New Zealand were in no different a position from New Zealanders permitted to come home from those parts of the world from early next year.

The Queenstown-Lakes district, at more than 90% double-vaccinated, was well-protected to weather the risk from returning New Zealanders, Australians and those from low-risk countries, he said.

"New Zealand’s visitor industry, from Kaitaia to Bluff and from the Park Royal to the humble cafe or gas station in Franz Josef, [has] endured a very hard couple of years, and now is not the time to further that pain by delaying further endeavours to open the border.

"Can I please ask with urgency that you review the seven-day isolation requirement?

"It is killing what remains of our tourism industry."

Mr Boult said he had received an initial answer advising a formal response would be coming from Mr Nash.