Several concerns need to be resolved before a trans-Tasman bubble can go ahead, but the government hopes on 6 April to announce a start date, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.
Ardern has been speaking to media this afternoon after a Cabinet meeting.
She says 2020 was one of the most challenging years New Zealand has faced as a country. It will have been one year since we went into level 4 lockdown on Wednesday.
She says it is the government’s intention that everyone in the country who can be vaccinated will be by the end of the year.
The vaccine will be “individual armour” and allows us to move our Covid-19 defences away from a “collective barricade”, she says.
She says there are a series of concerns that must be resolved before a tran-Tasman bubble can be put in place.
Cabinet needs to be satisfied that:
- Our response framework when there are cases in Australia is ready
- We have measures in place to contact trace travellers from Australia
- All technical issues are resolved, including transiting passengers and MIQ fees
- That we have the appropriate regulatory mechanisms in place
- That agencies are ready
- That the Director-General of Health has provided an up-to-date health assessment
“When we have met these criteria we anticipate we will be in a position to open the bubble,” Ardern says.
The National Party has been calling for a travel bubble with Australia and launched a petition to immediately start travel last week.
Ardern refused after last week’s Cabinet meeting to give a firm date, but said the next step would be for a proposal to go to the full Cabinet, potentially this week.
However, she this morning again played down the significance of today’s Cabinet meeting, saying a firm date was not likely to be announced.
Ardern said in May last year that September 2020 could be a “realistic” time frame for New Zealand’s borders to open up to Australia.
However in October 2020, when the Australian government said it had finalised a deal for a limited travel bubble across the Tasman, Ardern said the country was still not ready for quarantine-free travel.
The government also confirmed its officials were prepared for a bubble in February, but Australia backed out and changed its position.
Ardern says talks with airlines and airports have been ongoing.
New Zealand and Australian teams have met at least 12 times over the last year to discuss a travel bubble, Ardern said.
Ardern says an announcement will be made tomorrow to “tilt the balance towards first home buyers and increase housing supply”.
Property investors now make up the biggest share of buyers in the market while house prices continue to climb. New Zealand is now the least affordable place to live in the OECD.
“It will take time to turn this all around and unfortunately there is no silver bullet. But there are things we can do,” Ardern says.
She says the government has already made changes to help, including reforming the RMA.
The steps announced tomorrow morning will help first home buyers and increase the supply of houses, tipping the balance away from property investors.
“It is I believe a plan that will start making a real difference to this complex problem.”