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Ardern expects travel bubble between NZ and the Cook Islands to be in place by the end of the year

Ardern expects travel bubble between NZ and the Cook Islands to be in place by the end of the year
Image sourced from Pixabay

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expects a New Zealand/Cook Islands travel bubble to be formed by the end of the year. 

This would mean people could travel freely between the countries, without going into managed isolation or self-isolating. 

Ardern said non-New Zealand citizens would have to jump through an extra hoop in order to travel. 

She expected health checks to be done at the border and for people to have to make declarations about their health. 

Ardern said forming bubbles with "realm countries" was New Zealand's priority and that Niue was also being looked into. 

She said quarantine-free travel with other countries wasn't an option.

“We are moving very cautiously. We know what’s at stake," she said. 

Ardern said protecting New Zealand's tourism industry wasn't a reason to prevent people with New Zealand passports travelling between the two countries.

ACT Leader David Seymour said: "The hold up with a Cooks bubble shows Labour isn’t fit to govern.

“There’s no community transmission in New Zealand or the Cooks, but the PM still isn’t able to announce a travel bubble...

"As former PM Helen Clark suggested the other day, the election could be driving Labour’s strategy at the border.

“Despite the fact that remaining locked down and spending billions isn’t a sustainable plan, Labour doesn’t want to take any risks before September 19. But putting politics above people is completely wrong."

Here is a press release from Ardern:

The Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern and the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands Henry Puna have welcomed the completion of phase one in the establishment of a travel bubble between New Zealand and the Cook Island.

Negotiations on the text of an ‘Arrangement to Facilitate Quarantine-Free Travel between the Cook Islands and New Zealand’ are at the point of conclusion and this was reported to the Cook Islands Cabinet last Friday and the New Zealand Cabinet today.

The Arrangement outlines the health and border requirements for each country to meet in order to recommence quarantine-free travel, and annexes provide further detail on the implementation, including border and travel protocols.

Phase two will see health and border officials from both countries undertake quality assurance and system stress test checks to ensure the requirements in the Arrangement can be implemented on the ground.

Once assurance of the arrangements is guaranteed, phase three is a decision from the respective Cabinets that the Arrangement and on the ground measures can be started safely and quarantine free travel can begin.

Both Governments are hoping to have a travel bubble in place before the end of the year, and as soon as it can be safely achieved. 

“The Arrangement sets up the legal basis for the travel bubble and quarantine travel between New Zealand and the Cooks and all the rules and requirements that we need in place to make it work safely,” Prime Minister Ardern said.

“This Arrangement recognises the constitutional relationship and special ties between New Zealand and the Cook Islands, and provides the framework to recommence travel without the need to quarantine on arrival in both countries.

“Once in force, the Arrangement will facilitate the return to normal travel between our two countries, while acknowledging that the priority remains to protect our populations from COVID-19.

“We now need to make sure the commitments made in the Arrangement can be met and that both countries have robust health and border system that stop the spread of COVID.

“We need to stress test the arrangement, ensure testing and surveillance systems are strong, that we have contact tracing systems in place in the event of a case and that both countries can ensure those eligible for travel within the New Zealand/Cook Islands travel bubble meet the requisite health and border criteria as detailed in the Arrangement.”

Prime Minister Puna said that the free movement of people between the Cook Islands and New Zealand was vitally important to sustain economic and social connections.

“We are moving forward together with New Zealand in a way that balances economic and social needs with the importance of maintaining strong public health efforts in both our countries, and cooperation with travel sectors to implement safe travel protocols.

“As part of its COVID-19 response, the Cook Islands closed all air and sea borders in March.  We have been COVID free to this day.  The elimination by New Zealand of community transmission of COVID-19 100 days ago enabled some resumption by the Cook Islands of arrivals from New Zealand only.  

“On the 19 June the Cook Islands resumed quarantine free travel arrivals from Auckland only for Cook Islands residents who meet Cook Islands health and border entry requirements including 30 days prior residence in New Zealand.  Since the 19 June, we’ve continued to strengthen our border and health capabilities including stress testing.  That work combined with recent joint efforts between New Zealand and Cook Islands health and border officials through this Arrangement assures me both Governments are giving this matter utmost priority and we will be able to have commence quarantine free travel between ourselves as soon as it can be safely achieved.

“We look forward to once again welcoming family and visitors from New Zealand without the restriction of quarantine on both ends, when all the appropriate measures are in place.”

There will be a report back on progress in two weeks’ time.

The two Prime Ministers will sign the Arrangement once the conditions for safe travel to recommence are in place.  Officials will work closely with industry to progress this work.

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Why don't they start a travel bubble today and use Hamilton airport? It's only ~1hr from the Auckland Airport, has no international flights coming and going at the moment and has really cheap parking. Would be easy for people from Auckland/Hamilton/Tauranga to get there and no risk of spreading Covid. Seems like a no brainer to me.


Great idea.

I can't help thinking this is delayed by politics - our PM doesn't want even the smallest dent in her reputation for closing the borders until after the election. It is very unkind and unfair to the people of the Cook Islands.

the delay was due to them wanting to open with Australia (certain states), now that is off the table for at least a year they should get a move on
this will save a lot of jobs at both ends , airline, handling, tourism, logistics, etc
they still have the old Ansett terminal sitting idle (at the far end of the domestic) that could easily be reconfigured to handle international flights to raro and niue,

There was also a delay because of the uncertainty of whether there was community transmission in NZ as a result of 2-3 Kiwis recently testing positive on arrival overseas. The Cooks Govt would wait until that was cleared.

The headline: thought it was a typo 'Year' should be 'Week'.

David Seymour is right. To get a bubble working needs a planning - but only a little - this should have been planned in April and just delayed until both the Cook Islands and NZ can trust one anothers data.

What needed planning? A health checklist for travelers, NZ health official in the Cook Islands just in case there is an outbreak, a Covid-19 free pathway through the airport (note only one airport), financial promises to the Cook Islands just in case something goes wrong.

not worth the risk, for either country

What happens when Raro resumes flights to elsewhere like Tahiti and LA ?

Then the bubble is burst - any kiwi returning to NZ after the 1st flight lands from a non-bubble place goes into quarantine. Simple.

How many is that going to be - 17,000. Where are they going to stay - I know, Mark Richardson's residence. He will be in Rarotonga,anyway.

Absolutely... we are talking about an island nation with a population of only 17,000 people, if we can’t get this sorted what hope have we got of ever opening our border with anyone.

It would be a model bubble. Get it right and then if another country can match NZ's success we could add them to the bubble (Taiwan???).

Indeed both Cooks and NZ officials have already been working on the bubble detail so one wonders what they really did since now an audit is required. I agree all that should have been sorted months ago

Why wait till the end of the year, Xmas rush? Unlikely, it is more that they have no idea on how set one up, it is just another election statement.... why not just say they are looking to setup bubbles and we could also have an Australian bubble by the end of year, anything can happen in 5 months!

High season is April to November. Christmas is slow ish.

Bridges said this would be announced today - so who in Labour is leaking (as the media so often likes to speculate when it's the Nats)? Does this show a lack of confidence in Ardern's handling of the Pacific Bubble?

Or is Bridges secretly in the labour party ;).

More likely someone in the public service is leaking.

Bridges may have been advised of the possibility by the Govt by virtue of being the shadow foreign affair minister. Any significant decisions by an incumbent govt that may occur soon after an election I assume maybe flagged with the opposition in change they become the Govt?

If this is the case then I think he is still trying to make the government look incompetent. It only makes him look untrustworthy. I tend to think its more of a public service leak as stated by the previous contributor.

Why are we interested in an arrangement with the Cook Islands.Essentially, it is only going to be One Way Traffic and obviously not to our advantage. Mark Richardson chatted about lying on the beaches in Rarotonga. He may be able to afford it as the cost of flights and accommodation will be hugely expensive as both industries will be in financial catch up mode. I agree Air NZ will benefit. Garner has been hammering every day about dropping the boarder restriction. Is Mediaworks going to relocate the AM breakfast show to Rarotonga.....?

because it will save jobs here as well as in the cooks, sure the downside is the money will flow to them but NZ would still have to pay either way.
also the other advantage is it will work as a trial to get processes and systems in place to move on to other countries, covid is going to be with us a long time so we need to work out how to open up again

Save jobs in what industry - Tourism- ???
I don't think it is worth the Risk, it is much better to wait for a vaccine. Who is going to pay for kiwis who get infected when they, obviously, come back home.
I wouldn't support it for one minute.

I agree, a huge chuck of the Cooks economy is predicated on tourism from NZ (>70%), once that is removed and the tax from it and their funding reserves dry up what will pay for the schools, hospitals and public services in the Cooks. Either the Cooks will go bust, NZ send then money or they will borrow from another source e.g. China

Looks like they are going to have to borrow from China. Poor buggers. There must be some other financial avenue out there for them.

Yes the NZ taxpayer to keep their economy going by either NZ funding their wage subsidy, 'NZ provided 'aid' or all the Cooks people coming to NZ for work and or getting benefits are they are entitled too being NZ citizens. Note they already took a loan from the Asian development bank

The rainy season on Rarotonga typically runs from December to April.

I would hate to see the Cook Islands flooded with tourists in one go. Having been there a handful of times over the last 15 years, tourism has not been kind to the natural environment there. Started going downhill once flights from Australia started (not because of Australians, just the sheer numbers).

Just like the infrastructure announcement last year, this is an announcement about a future announcement, and only happening because National started landing some hits about inaction.

I suspect the Cook Government is the one in no hurry. It's not like we could insist they open their border to us. Insignificant issue to be discussing in an election campaign, I'd have thought.

The Cooks govt is desperate, by Sept there economy will collapse, They can open their border now to NZ citizens but until recently that would have resulted in holiday makers having their NZ quarantine paid for by the NZ Govt

The Cook Islands are incorporated into and recipients of the NZ Labour government's wages subsidy schemes which terminate in September. 90% of the Cook Island's workforce are claimed to be dependent on the tourism industry

""Phase two will see health and border officials from both countries undertake quality assurance and system stress test checks to ensure the requirements in the Arrangement can be implemented on the ground.""
Sounds like a deliberate recipe for delay. Since whatever happens the bureaucrat gets no problem until they give their approval and they can enjoy a warm free holiday in the Cook Islands while they delay

Aaaah, nope. Not after the latest South Auckland WuHuFlu cluster with no clear source yet identified. Move to Plan B.
Wait..What - no Plan B?????

I suspect the Cooks govt will now consider a range of plan B scenarios i.e open the border to NZ citizens with no bubble maybe with an approved negative test provided in advance etc. this is what French Polynesia have done.

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