A travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand could be established before Christmas – and possibly 'much sooner'

An Australia-New Zealand travel bubble could be possible before Christmas. (James D. Morgan, Getty Images)
  • New Zealanders and some Australians may soon be able to travel freely between the two countries under a new-look travel bubble.
  • New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the arrangement could be in place before Christmas and exclude those living in hotspot areas.
  • Queensland could be the first Australian state to be allowed free movement.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Christmas may come early for Australians and Kiwis alike with itchy feet, as governments on both sides of the Tasman revisit the idea of free travel between them.

On Sunday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was encouraged by growing flexibility on the part of the Australian government that a buble could be established this year.

“Previously they wanted a whole of Australia approach and we said that would slow things down,” Arden told TVNZ. “They’re now moving to a hotspot regime where certain parts [of Australia] won’t be able to be part of free movement between Australia and across the Tasman.”

“We’re working through the differences that would make for New Zealand and the arrangements we would need to ensure that if we’re opening up to one state that border is contained to ensure its safe for New Zealanders.”

Clearly, the situation has changed markedly since Scott Morrison minted his catchphrase, “if you can’t come to your state from Sydney, you can’t come from Singapore” back in June in an effort to get free domestic movement moving before international travel was permitted.

Three months on and Melbourne remains largely under lock and key, Queensland and Western Australian state governments are reluctant to allow visitors from other states, and the expectation a bubble would be established by September is all but dead.

With Ardern maintaining that New Zealand remains committed to an eradication strategy, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham indicated on Sunday the ball was largely in their court.

“We’re making sure we have all the work done, all the preparations there so that we can safely achieve that bubble with New Zealand,” he told ABC News Weekend Breakfast. “It’s up to them as to whether they choose to open up to Australia, but we’re certainly making sure that we’re prepared and I’m hopeful that could be this year.”

“We want to make sure that our tourism regions are in the best possible shape on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Ardern for her part suggested Queensland would perhaps be the first cab off the rank, having had the least cases of the eastern states and fewer than 200 in the last six months. As of Monday, New Zealand had 55 active cases, contained within Auckland and the surrounding communities.

New Zealand Deputy PM Winston Peters meanwhile the consensus in government was that a bubble is closer than thought.

“Some were saying by Christmas. We should be able to do it much sooner than that,” he said.

It’ll be a true Christmas miracle if it does indeed get off the ground.

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