The trans-Tasman bubble will open in less than two weeks' time on April 19, Jacinda Ardern says.
The Prime Minister made the announcement today, after weeks of speculation over the date.
Ardern said the conditions had been met for opening a quarantine-free travel zone with Australia.
"Our team’s success in managing Covid-19 and keeping it out over the past 12 months now opens up the opportunity to reconnect with loved ones and resume trans-Tasman travel," Ardern said.
"One sacrifice that has been particularly hard for many to bear over the past year has been the separation from friends and family who live in Australia, so today’s announcement will be a great relief for many."
Ardern said quarantine-free travel would not be the same as before Covid-19, stressing those who planned to travel should do so under a ‘flyer-beware’ umbrella.
“People will need to plan for the possibility of having travel disrupted if there is an outbreak,” she said.
“Just as we have our alert level settings for managing cases in New Zealand, we will also now have a framework for managing New Zealanders in the event of an outbreak in Australia, which involves three possible scenarios: continue, pause, suspend.”
The trans-Tasman bubble will operate state-by-state, with a traffic-light system, should there be a possible outbreak on either side.
‘Travel continuing’ will give the greenlight for travel, ‘travel paused’ would see travel in a state on hold for 72 hours and ‘travel suspended would mean there would be no travel in or out of that state, with travellers having to shelter in place.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said to be eligible to travel without quarantine, a person must not have had a positive Covid-19 test result in the previous two weeks or be awaiting the results of a Covid-19 test taken in the same period.
"Passengers will need to provide comprehensive information on how they can be contacted while in New Zealand, complete a pre-departure health declaration and won’t be able to travel if they have cold or flu symptoms," Hipkins said.
"We will also be undertaking random temperature checks of those arriving as an added precaution."
The bubble is anticipated to free up more than 1000 MIQ spots.
"With the opening of travel, we will look to decommission these facilities – but in the meantime we are considering whether they could be used for other low risk countries, such as the Pacific Islands," Hipkins said.
Travellers may also be asked to self-isolate when they get back.
People travelling may be asked to take a pre-departure declaration that they have not been feeling unwell, as well as a possible pre-departure Covid-19 test.
Despite currently not being a requirement, Ardern said pre-departure Covid-19 tests was “still potentially something we may ask for depending on health situation in Queensland”.
She added it was already in the legislative framework.
Ardern told New Zealanders currently in Australia that have travel plans to come back prior to April 19 to rebook their flights.
“I’m told airlines will be allowing fares to be used as credit or used on another flight,” Ardern said, adding that the passenger would possibly need to pick up the fare difference.
She said they would be “better off” not having to undergo MIQ in that time.
Ardern said she gave Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison a “heads-up” prior to the Cabinet meeting today on what they were discussing around the bubble, and messaged him before she made the announcement.
She said they planned to meet face-to-face again “relatively soon”.
Following the announcement, Morrison told reporters at his own press conference this evening it was an important first step for Australia as the nation slowly begins returning to normal.
“The fact that we can now combine again will mean jobs, it will mean people reunited, it will mean many opportunities as those normal relations are restored between Australia and New Zealand,” he said.
New Zealanders have been able to travel to Australia without having to enter isolation since last year, a system which was paused at times due to outbreaks here.
However, Ardern has resisted reciprocating for those travelling to New Zealand from Australia until now.
Opposition leader Judith Collins this morning said she understood the date was likely to be announced for April 19, "because that seems to be what the airlines are getting themselves geared up for".
"We think it's taken an awfully long time. It will be a great relief for many families... It will hopefully free up some more spots in the managed isolation facilities to allow people to come back and get families reunited."
Ardern warned potential travellers last month, saying on both sides of the ditch there would be an "element of flyer-beware", should the borders shut while visiting Australia, or if Australians are in New Zealand.
BUBBLE TROUBLE: NEW ZEALAND'S 11-MONTH JOURNEY TO REMOVING BORDER RESTRICTIONS FOR AUSTRALIANS - AAP
March 2020 - Australia and New Zealand close their borders in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
May 2020 - Jacinda Ardern appears at a national cabinet meeting and with Scott Morrison agrees in-principle to open a trans-Tasman bubble when safe.
May 2020 - Ardern gives her first timeline for a bubble, saying "September is realistic".
June 2020 - Then-deputy PM Winston Peters calls for a state-by-state bubble, beginning with Covid-free Tasmania immediately.
July 2020 - The major Victorian outbreak sees New Zealand put a pause on bubble hopes.
Oct 2020 - Individual Australian states begin to remove quarantine restrictions for visiting Kiwis, and SA Premier Steven Marshall writes to Ardern asking for a bubble with his Covid-free state.
Nov 2020 - Ardern reveals an impasse in talks with the federal government over outbreak definitions.
Dec 2020 - In her last press conference of the year, Ardern says the government will scrap quarantine requirements for Australians in the first quarter of 2021.
Jan 2021 - Ardern hits out at Australia's decision to suspend quarantine-free travel for Kiwis after two community cases in NZ.
Feb 2021 - Ardern abandons the first quarter goal, and reveals a switch in strategy to a state-by-state approach - effectively adopting Australia's hotspot strategy.
March 2021 - The NZ opposition campaigns on the immediate opening of a bubble.
April 2021 - Ardern to finally announce the removal date for quarantine measures for Australian travellers - creating the trans-Tasman bubble.