The much-discussed Trans-Tasman ‘travel bubble’ between Australia and New Zealand is unlikely to happen anytime soon.
The re-emergence of coronavirus infections in and around Auckland, plus the need to postpone the NZ elections due to the virus, will likely put everything on hold, at least until after the elections.
Australia’s growing infections also problematic
In similar vein, the ongoing increases in infections in Australia’s eastern states make it unlikely that New Zealand authorities would be comfortable with a quarantine-free arrangement.
Indeed, in recent weeks a travel bubble arrangement with Cook Islands has seemed a more popular idea with would-be holidaymakers in New Zealand.
Alex Hawke, Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific, confirmed in a press briefing on Thursday that, while the commitment to create a travel bubble remained strong, it would not become a reality in the immediate future.
Travel bubble is ‘on pause’ says Pacific minister
“The Trans-Tasman bubble’s on pause for a little bit, but as soon as we are able to get policy commitment to it, we want to be administratively ready,” he said.
“New Zealand has indicated that there will be a short pause on that, but they are committed to the outcome.”
He added that that the upcoming NZ general election would also be an issue.
NZ election would disrupt government decisions
“They might take some time to get through that, which of course disrupts government, and so that [bubble] may be off until after the election,” Hawke said.
The country’s election is scheduled for 19 September, but a delay seems likely and the idea has been supported by the opposition National Party, which would even by happy with it being moved to 2021.
Kiwi Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has yet to announce a decision on a postponement. This is likely to be made this coming week.
A pan-Pacific bubble has also been discussed
According to the Guardian Australia newspaper, a broader pan-Pacific travel bubble has been mooted, but appears likely to commence later than Australia’s arrangement with New Zealand, despite a number of Pacific countries remaining Covid-free.
Australia is in discussions with Fiji about opening two-way travel between the two countries, but Hawke said no other Pacific country had yet expressed an interest in opening their borders to travellers from Australia.
“Other countries so far have not indicated their willingness to have a bubble yet and we understand that. But as people want to partner on this, we’re engaging with them,” Hawke said.