Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has described today’s travel bubble opening as an “important milestone” in New Zealand’s economic recovery, worth an estimated $1 billion.
“It is truly exciting,” she said of the NZ-Australia travel zone, which could deliver a “billion-dollar boost”.
The travel bubble was a world-first and everyone should take a moment to be “very, very proud”.
That’s because, according to Ardern, it had been a “team effort”.
She said the bubble opening could be worth $1 billion.
Ardern thanked everyone who has come to New Zealand from Australia – “welcome”.
Her message to anyone who was concerned about the bubble was that it was something that “was not taken lightly”.
It was “low-risk” she said, adding that officials have taken the time to get it right.
New Zealand would be taking a “risk-based approach” on the travel bubble.
She said nothing that had been entered into with Australia eroded New Zealand’s “sovereign right” to its borders.
Ardern had been “slightly disappointed” that Cabinet was meeting as the first flight touched down in NZ and reunions took place.
She said it looked to her like a “scene from [the movie] Love Actually”.
Ardern said she had some family members who were “desperate” to come back to New Zealand from Australia.
One of her friends had texted her when she was at the podium last week with a copy of her ticket.
MIQ 'peaks and troughs'
In the coming weeks there would be more announcements on managed isolation (MIQ) spaces, with more rooms freed up because of the bubble.
MIQ demand was subject to”peaks and troughs” and as winter months approached it would be reduced.
“We’re constantly having to anticipate demand.”
Budget 2021 next month would be focused on the ongoing Covid recovery.
Ardern was also asked about the current ban on travellers from India and she confirmed the restriction was “always temporary”.
For now, Ardern said the focus was on the Australia travel bubble.
There had been no official conversations with Singapore about extending the travel bubble to that country.
“It’s too early to say,” she said.
But she did say that if those discussions were to be held, they would be done in conjunction with Australia.
Australian Foreign Minister to visit NZ
Moments before Ardern was scheduled to take to the post-Cabinet press conference podium, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced that Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne will visit New Zealand.
It’s the first face-to-face Foreign Ministers’ consultations since the pandemic began, she said.
Payne’s delegation will be in New Zealand from April 21-23.
“Australia is New Zealand’s closest and most important international partner,” Mahuta said.
Payne’s visit symbolised the “success of our respective Covid-19 strategies as we take our first step to reconnect with the world”.
Ardern said it was “significant” that Payne was coming to New Zealand.
Asked about when Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison would come to New Zealand, she said he would be coming in the “not too distant future”.
Her plans would be to take him “down south” to locations that had been hit by the border closure. She would not, however, say where exactly this was.
The first travel bubble passengers touched down this afternoon and were greeted with songs and dancing at airports.
Many of those arriving are family members who haven’t seen their loved ones in more than a year.
Seamus Matamua and his fiancé Auilagi Vaifale have been waiting patiently, and a little nervously, to see Matamua’s parents arriving from Sydney.
It’s the first time Vaifale will have met them, with the couple marrying in June. “I’m very excited, but a bit nervous,” she told the Herald.
This morning Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi revealed new border exemption rules – he said this would help reunite “hundreds” of families.
The news will come as welcome to many, including some of those who rallied outside Parliament earlier this month, urging the Government to “be kind” and allow their family members into the country.
But Faafoi this morning said there would still be “thousands” to whom the exemptions would not apply.
“We absolutely acknowledge that there will be still some people having to live in difficult situations because of the border closures,” Faafoi said, adding that “we have to draw the line somewhere”.
The new rules apply to the family of critical health workers with families still overseas, as well as a “small number” of other highly skilled workers.
A new exemption is also being created for the families of temporary visa holders, who had a visa to come to New Zealand but had not arrived before the border closed last year.
To be eligible for these new rules, the family member currently in New Zealand must have more than 12 months remaining on their visa.
They can begin applying for the exemption from April 30.
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