Emotional reunions as Kiwis touch down in Australia after restrictions lifted

For the first time in more than six months, travellers from New Zealand are able to walk free in NSW and the Northern Territory without first needing to quarantine, thanks to the new "safe travel zone".

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New South Wales and Northern Territory are now open thanks to the new “safe travel zone”. Source: 1 NEWS

More than 350 people made the trip across the ditch today, across three flights, many reuniting with loved ones after months apart.

"It's only been nine months but it feels like an eternity," said Jodie Blair, who lives in New Zealand, before exclaiming: "I don't have to quarantine!"

One boyfriend drove 2000 kilometres to be at the arrivals gate in Sydney, greeted his partner with a bouquet of roses.

"It just doesn't feel real at all. It's something I thought wasn't going to happen," Taren Kowalski said.

Stacey Brown had returned to New Zealand from Australia because her mum was unwell.

"But she passed away while I was in isolation, we had her funeral and now I've come back," she said. "It's so nice not to go into a hotel room."

NSW Tourism and Investment Minister Stuart Ayres said it was "quite an emotional day here today"

"It's like living in a scene from the movie of Love Actually," he said.

"It's been an incredibly important day in our battle against Covid. We want to make sure we can keep making strong progress and opening up our borders where it's safe to do so."

Today was also significant for Jetstar, which, alongside Qantas, has now resumed its services on the Auckland to Sydney route.

"Jetstar hasn't operated any international services since April this year due to border restrictions so today we're really excited about the relaunch in the Tasman," said pilot Tony MacDonald.

Cabin manager Holly Ouwehand said the past six months have been "quite eerie" coming to the empty airport.  

"We do actually have a couple of cabin crew that have been able to work now because of this flight," she said. 

For now, the safe travel zone is just one flight away.

Auckland Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood said it's an important first step in the gradual and safe reopening of borders - "something we've been working on for some time with our colleagues across the Tasman".

"I'd be encouraging the NZ Government to open up their quarantine provisions as soon as possible."