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The New Zealand Herald reported yesterday Cabinet ministers would discuss a transtasman travel bubble with Australia on Monday with a view to mid to late April as a possible start date.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins had earlier indicated a bubble would be at least three weeks away because airports and airlines would need time to set up necessary systems.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern refused to put a date on a bubble, but hoped it would be "very soon".
Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult promised to be "dancing in the streets" when a transtasman bubble opened, but Queenstown Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ruth Stokes said it was a "double-edged sword".
"Every silver lining has its cloud; our cloud, realistically, is capacity and how fast we can generate that."
Ms Stokes estimated if borders were to open within the next month, the community could deliver to 60%.
Queenstown Airport Corporation chief executive Colin Keel said the airport had been ready for the border to reopen for many months and a bubble would be a welcome and overdue outcome.
The airport had protocols to manage international travellers as soon as the announcement was made, he said.
The news meant a public rally, planned for Queenstown this morning to coincide with Tourism Minister Stuart Nash’s visit, was cancelled.
Organiser and businesswoman Lou McDowell said transtasman borders would be the start of the area being revitalised.
Fiordland Community Board chairwoman Sarah Greaney said a travel bubble would be welcomed in the area and prove crucial to business survival through the winter.
The Otago Southland Employers’ Association yesterday said it supported quarantine-free travel with Australia.
Tourism and other sectors, including accommodation, hospitality and events, were bearing major financial strain due to the border closures, chief executive Virginia Nicholls said.
"The financial and social costs have been absolutely devastating in some of our local communities."
A clear timeline would help Otago and Southland businesses to plan their next steps, she said.
Otago Chamber of Commerce acting chief executive Nicky Aldridge-Masters echoed those thoughts.
"You just need to read the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce business confidence survey to assess the impact it would have on that area alone."
With appropriate checks and procedures in place, the opening of the border was an essential and appropriate step towards normality, she said.