The eagerly-anticipated 'travel bubble' between Australia and New Zealand could go ahead on a state-by-state basis and potentially excluding Victoria, NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has suggested, following a surge of Covid-19 cases in Melbourne.
Passengers darting between the two countries would be allowed to do so without undergoing a 14-day quarantine period.
With a New Zealand general election now set for September 19, reopening the country to Australia travellers – especially with the ski season now underway – would deliver a massive tourism-driven boost to the economy, but carries the risk of a vote-flipping coronavirus outbreak.
Creating even a state-based bubble would be a shot in the arm for the New Zealand economy, with Tourism Research Australia estimating that each Australian visitor to New Zealand spends $2,740 (Kiwis popping across the pond drop around $1,700 each).
All-in, or state by state?
"There are some countries who have a similar strategy to New Zealand around eliminating community transmission and have plans around how to deal with it if it ever crops up, and Australia is in that category," Ardern told New Zealand's TVNZ.
"We have a system that would work with a state-by-state approach or a whole country approach. If it's whole country we'll be waiting, because obviously there is community transmission in Victoria and we can't risk that."
Ardern's comments come as the border between New South Wales and Victoria officially closes from 11.59pm Tuesday July 7.
Queensland's borders will reopen to all states except Victoria after Friday July 10, while South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania are also revisiting their border closures at the likely expense of Victoria.
"At the moment, Australia wants to move as a country rather than state-by-state and obviously issues in Victoria are delaying that," Ardern noted. "But if they choose to move state by state, that’s a matter for them and that of course would allow things to open up sooner."
Restricting travel to New Zealand from specific Australian states would be possibly only if those states had their own border controls well in place, Ardern said, so that someone from Victoria could not detour via another state to enter New Zealand.
"Some of the states have actually put their own borders up, so they've created their own state bubbles," she added.