So much for mateship, the spirit of ANZAC, ‘hands of friendship across the Tasman’ and all that. The Kiwis, is appears, are just not that keen to hang out with us Aussies.
Not only have the New Zealanders just kicked the Sanzaar Super Rugby competition involving Australia and South Africa into touch, they’ve now also let it be known that the so-called ‘Trans-Tasman Travel Bubble’ seems to be floating off over the horizon and may instead become a ‘New Zealand – Cook Islands Travel Bubble’.
As Aussie struggles, Cooks Islands sees the gap
With Victoria and New South Wales seeing a coronavirus resurgence, the Cook Islands in the South Pacific has taken the gap and is pushing for a quarantine-free travel agreement that would give travel-starved Kiwis an offshore destination and the tiny island nation – total population less than 18 000 – much-needed tourism revenue.
The two nations have strong political and cultural links and the NZ dollar is one of its official currencies.
A massive added bonus is that Cook Islands has remained free of COVID-19 during the global pandemic.
Islands leader says talks with New Zealand ‘encouraging’
Earlier this week, the Deputy Prime Minister of Cook Islands, Mark Brown, announced that he’d had “encouraging” discussions with New Zealand authorities about opening a travel bridge. He intimated that this could happen in as little as a week.
The New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, hasn’t shown quite the same urgency, but neither has she knocked the idea on the head.
“The Prime Minister spoke to the Cook Islands Prime Minister yesterday to convey that she has asked officials to work on timelines for reopening with realm countries,” a spokesman for Ardern told the New Zealand Herald.
“There are no set dates yet, and any speculation at this stage would be very premature. The number one priority will continue to be the safety of both New Zealand and realm countries. No one wishes to be responsible for COVID entering into the Pacific.”
Cooks islands economy is dependent on tourism
Cook Island, though, will certainly keep pushing. Tourism revenue comprises 70% of national GDP, with New Zealanders typically making up the bulk of visitors.
The New Zealand Herald reports that travel website Bookings.com has found the Cook Islands is overtaking Australia as New Zealanders’ preferred overseas destination, with resorts on the island of Rarotonga attracting more interest than Aussie destinations.