Australia the real Covid threat

Monday June 15, 2020 Written by Published in Economy
Prime Minister Henry Puna. 20032332 Prime Minister Henry Puna. 20032332

Government concerns about Australians spreading Covid-19 through a Pacific bubble.

Prime Minister Henry Puna has expressed concerns to New Zealand that if they open their borders to Australia, Covid could transit through to Rarotonga.

His New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern revealed the conversation, in defending her government’s continued blockade of Cook Islands tourism.

It comes amid calls from Cook Islands government, tourism and even former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark to open the borders to Kiwis in time for next month’s school holidays.

New Zealand and Cook Islands are both Covid-free – but Ardern has continued to chase a deal with Australia, which is reporting dozens of new cases every day.

Ardern told Newshub that they needed to be certain they would neither export nor import any new Covid cases.

“I am going to be cautious in that decision-making – unapologetically – because our borders are the reason that we now have the freedom that we have,” she said.

“If we move quickly or without making a full analysis of those decisions, we run the risk of losing everything. That's why we're going to be very careful here.”

She spoke to Puna last week and said he had concerns that if New Zealand also opened up the border to Australia – where there are still hundreds of active cases – that would put his country at risk of importing the virus, which has killed 434,000 people around the world in a matter of months.

"The Cook Islands has to be happy to open with New Zealand, and also doing a little bit of thinking around whether or not they would be happy with the trans-Tasman arrangements as well,” she added.

"Even if they say 'yes, let's open to New Zealand', if New Zealand has people coming in from a state of Australia, they have to be happy with that too. And we have to be happy with that."

Ardern wouldn't give a timeframe on when any bubble might be created, not wanting to get people's hopes up.

The Aotearoa Society of the Cook Islands has added its voice to those calling for New Zealand to open up its borders to allow a travel bubble with south Pacific nations that are Covid-19 free.

President Derek Fox, who has been New Zealand the past few months but expects to return to Rarotonga this week, said New Zealanders were being denied a choice.

“We can understand that the New Zealand government wants to divert New Zealand tourist dollars into New Zealand tourist businesses, but Cook Islanders are New Zealanders too,” he said.

“And unlike New Zealand which has other industries – meat, dairy, wool, forestry, fishing, fruit and veges, wine and others from which to earn income, the Cook Islands have just one.

“Why not let New Zealanders decide where they would like to spend their holiday dollar?

“By continuing to require people to quarantine after returning from a Covid-free country and favourite holiday destination, you are denying them that choice, and visiting hardship on people who are part of the realm of New Zealand.”

New Zealand’s former Prime Minister Helen Clark strengthened her calls yesterday, describing the refusal to open the borders to tourists as a “bubble blockage at the New Zealand end”.

“Why not open a Pacific travel bubble now and let tourism sectors and economies of Covid-19-free Pacific nations have a chance of recovering?’ she asked.

That bubble could be reviewed if, or when, New Zealand also opened up to trans-Tasman travel. “That won’t be soon given ongoing new cases in New South Wales  and Victoria,” she observed.

“The travel bubble blockage is at the New Zealand end now. Cook Islands would welcome New Zealand tourists.”

But Kiwis wanting to go to the Cooks for a winter break needed assurance that they would not face a two-week quarantine on their return home to New Zealand, she said. “Both countries are Covid-19 free, so there is no apparent need for that.”


  • Comment Link robert Tuesday, 16 June 2020 22:54 posted by robert

    I want to take my family to the Cooks on holiday ASAP

    The Cooks govt needs to allow NZ Citizens to enter ASAP rather than waiting for a NZ-Australia bubble or conditions thereof, which as others have also said may not occur for many months, perhaps not until after the NZ election in Sept. The Cooks can then review that bubble if NZ opens a bubble to Australia. Presumably a prerequisite is that the NZ govt will want to confident the Cooks has its own Covid-19 process and border in good order too to inform a NZ decision to remove the current 14 quarantine requirement if coming from the Cooks

    In short how long does the Cooks govt want to wait on NZ to decide when and what it is doing with Australia?


  • Comment Link Stuart Tuesday, 16 June 2020 13:54 posted by Stuart

    I do not believe it is fare for the NZ government to supply charter flights to bring home New Zealanders from other parts of the world and not accept Cook Islanders, most of who are NZ passport holders to cross the NZ border.

    The New Zealand government should remember that there are Cook Islanders ( that I Know personally ) who hold NZ passport's and people in the other pacific countries that are covid free, that will travel to NZ for personal, family, shopping or medical reasons.

    This will therefor benefit all country's involved especially the NZ tourism industry by having a pacific bubble without the need to wait for Australia. Any traveler from NZ to the pacific will also aid the NZ economy because a large amount of the supplies required in the pacific are purchased from NZ

    It is time NZ

  • Comment Link Jeremy Tuesday, 16 June 2020 00:24 posted by Jeremy

    What say the four Covid-free Pacific nations (Cook Islands, Niue, Tonga, Samoa) declare a Pacific Covid-free zone, and the leaders of all four countries fly to New Zealand to personally lobby the NZ Prime Minister to make NZ the 5th country in that bubble. If the premiers have to do two weeks quarantine at an Auckland airport hotel, that alone would be a ridiculous enough sight to get some movement from New Zealand. In the meantime, there is nothing to stop Cook Islands from welcoming all New Zealanders into the Cooks - if that is done, then some NZers might be willing to stomach a two-week wait re-entering NZ just to get a winter break outside of NZ. It'll get the ball rolling.

  • Comment Link Patricia Bullmer Monday, 15 June 2020 17:44 posted by Patricia Bullmer

    If you open the Pacific Bubble you should not forget the thousands of foreigners who are currently stranded in New Zealand. Most of whom, like us, have been staying here in NZ since the beginning of lockdown or even longer and have endured all the restrictions like the Kiwis or even more so because there is no way to burst your bubble if you don't know anyone. We foreigners who have been living here for months now are as Covid-free as any NZ citizen.
    I had planned to celebrate my birthday on Aitutaki for about 5 years and I am still hopeful that I might copy the Queen by celebrating it later in July. We would even be prepared to face some kind of quarantine on the Cooks if that helps. So please do not only admit NZ citizens but also those who have obeyed all the lockdown rules.
    Patricia Bullmer from Germany, honorary Kiwi since 15 March

  • Comment Link Gary Price Monday, 15 June 2020 13:35 posted by Gary Price

    Australia has another 15 active cases today, so they won't be in a Trans- Tasman bubble for a long time, maybe not even till next year. Jacinda will want them free of any cases before she will take part in a joint bubble.
    So, lets open a bubble with the Cooks as soon as possible. The bubble can be reassessed when Australia join in. We may have a vaccine by then hopefully.
    Henry Puna and Mark Brown need to put a proposal forward to NZ, and add the financial benefits that it will bring both countries.
    Make a qualifying rule that you only accept people with NZ passports, who have spent their last 28 days in NZ.
    Come on......We can do this.
    Gary Price.
    Whangarei, NZ

Leave a comment