Australia has confirmed it will open its international border to New Zealand, with the first flight set to depart on October 16.
New Zealanders will be able to travel quarantine-free to Australia in two weeks in the first stage of a travel bubble deal between Australia and New Zealand.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said quarantine-free travel will begin from midnight on Friday, October 16, with New Zealanders allowed to fly into NSW and the Northern Territory.
It is expected Australians will head to New Zealand at a later date.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison finalised details of the arrangement with his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern today.
“This will allow New Zealanders and other residents in New Zealand who have not been in an area designated as a COVID-19 hot spot in New Zealand in the preceding 14 days to travel quarantine free to Australia,” Mr McCormack said at a press conference this afternoon.
Mr McCormack said to the Commonwealth definition of a COVID-19 hot spot was three locally acquired cases over a rolling three-day average.
However, there was no date yet for when Australians would be able to travel to New Zealand.
“Certainly if (Ms Ardern) wants to have Australians going to New Zealand, then that will be up to her and New Zealand as to how those arrangements can be put into place and under what conditions they can be put into place,” Mr McCormack said.
“But as I’d say, Northern Territory and New South Wales — very much open.”
Mr McCormack said the trans-Tasman travel bubble was the first stage of the government’s plan to “open up Australia to the world”.
South Australia, which has opened its domestic borders, would not be part of the first travel bubble but Mr McCormack said it was expected to be the “next cab off the rank”.
He said other states could follow if they accepted the Federal Government’s COVID-19 hot spot definition.
There are no plans to expand the international bubble beyond New Zealand, however Pacific nations have been tipped as being among the next to be considered.
“We may well extend this. We want to open up Australia to the world. This is the first part of it,” McCormack said.
“We will wait and see how this unfolds, we will wait and see the success of this.
“I know Foreign Minister Marise Payne is working with many of our Pacific island friends at the moment, but for the Pacific Islands that want to go to New Zealand (and) be there for a fortnight, they can avail themselves of this opportunity.”
Sydney Airport chief executive Geoff Culbert said the announcement gave the travel industry “a welcome injection of hope”.
“We applaud the Federal Government for driving this through,” Mr Culbert said.
“Pre-COVID New Zealand was Sydney Airport’s second busiest passenger route behind the USA. We’ve been preparing for the ramp up of international passengers from the day restrictions came in and we’re looking forward to giving our Kiwi cousins a safe and warm welcome from October 16.”
Earlier today, Ms Ardern said it was still too early to allow Australians into New Zealand.
“We have resisted that because we want to keep New Zealanders safe,” she said, according to the ABC.
“We will not open the borders for quarantine-free travel with Australia until it is safe to do so, because doing it too early risks losing all of the freedoms that we already have in our economy.”
She also reminded New Zealanders just because they could enter Australia quarantine-free, that did not mean they could return without having to quarantine.
Earlier in the week, Ms Ardern told Channel 9’s Today one of the issues still being ironed out was what Ms Morrison’s proposed hotspot rules for states and territories would look like.
“We are just working through what that would mean,” Ms Ardern said.
“For New Zealand, we have had a plan and a strategy of just having our community free of COVID, so we will just need to make sure that that hot spot regime works on our side too.
“(There’s) a bit of work to be done and both sides will need to be comfortable with each other’s arrangements.
“What you can see is that we do want to make it work. We want it to be safe. We want everyone to be comfortable with it and know that we are safeguarding our own strategies as we do it.”
It has been speculated New Zealanders would travel across the ditch without needing to quarantine sooner than their Australian counterparts going to NZ.
“I hope very soon to see New Zealanders coming and holidaying in Australia,” Mr Morrison told the National Press Club in Canberra this week.
“I can’t tell you Australians will be able to holiday in New Zealand, but that’s their problem. I’m happy for Kiwi tourists to come here and spend money in NSW and South Australia. They’re very, very welcome.”