Passengers on a Air New Zealand flight arriving at Rarotonga Airport last month. Cook Islands officials are saying talks on a potential travel bubble with NZ are a positive step. Photo: LOSIRENE LACANIVALU 20102335
Quarantine free travel between Cook Islands and New Zealand likely to start “a couple of weeks” after both sides have reached an agreement.
Moves towards creating a travel bubble with New Zealand will
take a giant step forward this week when Kiwi officials arrive here for an
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last night
announced officials are set to visit the Cook Islands from Friday for an
inspection with the goal of confirming a safe travel bubble.
While Ardern did not put any time-frames on a potential
travel bubble, she said it was her aim and hope “that this can resume as soon
as is safely possible”.
She adds the on-the-ground visit by officials to the Cook
Islands is the next step in that process.
“We of course have also said to counterparts in the Cook
Islands we welcome any visits that they may wish to do in the other direction
to equally assure themselves of the practices that we would have in place at
the border too,” Ardern said in her post Cabinet press conference.
“Keep in mind it's not just New Zealand saying ‘we’re ready
to go’, the Cook Islands need to give their approval too, and that's really
important because they have Covid-free status.
“At the moment we’re getting everything in place, we do want
to go over and make sure we’re having those face to face talks, in part, one of
the things we’ve always been mindful of: it’s not just the aviation border,
it’s the maritime border that has been an area of risk for both countries. Just
checking all those arrangements are what both sides would expect is important.”
Cook Islands Government and Tourism Industry Council are
encouraged by the comments from Ardern.
Addressing the country during the national prayer service
for thanksgiving and protection from the Covid-19 pandemic last night, Prime
Minister Mark Brown said Cook Islands officials in New Zealand would also
undertake a similar exercise.
“I am heartened by PM Ardern’s comment that things are ‘moving
positively’ and appreciate that the New Zealand Cabinet took the time to
discuss this quarantine free travel agreement at (their) Cabinet meeting,”
“Whilst no timeframe has been agreed for the start of
quarantine free travel, I concur with PM Ardern’s remarks that it would likely
start a couple of weeks after both sides have reached an agreement.
“I agree with PM Ardern that no decision will be made unless
we are both assured of the safety of both our people’s in any proposed
arrangement. Our people’s safety is paramount.”
Liana Scott, the president of the Tourism Industry Council,
also welcomed movement towards opening borders safely.
“Tourism Industry Council is pleased to hear that the on the
ground visit by New Zealand officials commences this coming weekend. This
inspection will add assurance and give merit to the integrity of our systems
and processes. Further to this any contribution that they can recommend where
improvements may be needed is welcomed,” Scott said.
Meanwhile Jacinda Ardern says there are still some
inconsistencies that need to be resolved for how Australia handles
isolation-free travel before a similar trans-Tasman bubble is possible.
“Australia at the moment has indicated their hotspot regime
wouldn’t close down travel from any given state until they had as many as 10
cases or more a day over a three-day period. Now, New Zealand would consider 30
cases in the community an unreasonable risk, Australia at the moment is saying
that that would be within their tolerance.”
Ardern says New Zealand needs to be very, very clear about guarantees for managing resurgences in a given Australian state.