Morning Briefing April 16: Will the travel bubble live up to the hype?

Australians appear slow to commit to NZ travel plans ahead of the trans-Tasman bubble and the Government reveals a new penalty for using a phone while driving. 

Campervan on a NZ road (stock image). Source:

New Zealand is days away from rolling out the welcome mat to our trans-Tasman neighbours, but one key tourism operator says bookings by visiting Australians may not match the travel bubble hype.

Tourism Holdings Limited (thl), which operates the Maui, Britz, Kea and Mighty Rentals camper rental brands on both sides of the Tasman, told Q+A Kiwis seem keener on using the bubble so far.

CEO Grant Webster says browsing for campervan travel in each country is “mainly window shopping right now” with website searches up more than bookings. 

But Auckland Airport is ready and waiting to process those who have booked their quarantine-free trans-Tasman travel.

Around 400 passenger flights a week are expected through the airport before the end of the month, compared to just 36 flights to and from Australia in the first week of April.

Auckland Airport CEO Adrian Littlewood says Monday will be a day of high emotion, both for those who will see family members for the first time in a year and for the teams who have worked to make quarantine-free travel a reality.

Trans-Tasman passengers and those required to still go into managed isolation will be kept apart, with the airport's terminal separation coming into effect from today.

Meanwhile, the imminent travel bubble is causing headaches for other New Zealanders looking to fly home.

Stuff reports the bubble will effectively block one of the major routes Kiwis use to return to New Zealand, as they’ll no longer be able to transit through Australia from further abroad.  

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Govt targets phones in cars

Fines for using a mobile phone while driving are set to nearly double as the Government cracks down on the practice.

Kiwis caught using their phones behind the wheel will soon receive a $150 fine, up from the current $80.

Transport Minister Michael Wood revealed the new penalty today, saying Kiwis need to take the issue more seriously. Twenty-two people were killed and 73 seriously injured between 2015 and 2019 due to drivers using their phones. 

The new fine will be imposed from April 30. The offence will continue to carry 20 demerit points.

More MIQ concerns raised

Some in the health sector are alarmed at revelations student nurses are being used in frontline jobs in managed isolation and quarantine facilities in Christchurch.

Concern is so high, the New Zealand Nurses Organisation is demanding an immediate end to the practice for public safety reasons. They say the students’ inexperience could lead to Covid-19 getting into the community.

However, the local district health board says it’s safe and a great learning opportunity. 

Meanwhile, the Government is still working to further shore up the border following this week’s revelations a MIQ security guard misled his employers about being regularly tested for Covid-19.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern accused the border worker of “lying” on Wednesday but admitted yesterday she may have been “a bit blunt” in her language. She also accepted the system of keeping tabs on border surveillance testing needs improvement. 

Officials also moved to share more concrete details about New Zealand’s vaccine rollout yesterday, with Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield elaborating on how the general population can obtain their Pfizer jab from July.

It comes as Medsafe yesterday announced it wants “additional data” before approving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for use in New Zealand. 

A new plan to stub out smoking

The Government has announced several radical proposals in its move to eradicate smoking.

Those Smokefree 2025 plans include reducing the number of tobacco outlets and also requiring them to be licensed. Meanwhile, the amount of nicotine in a cigarette would be reduced to low levels and filters would be prohibited, making smoking less palatable. A minimum price for cigarettes and tobacco could also be introduced. 

Associate Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall says the best way to achieve a smokefree future is for young New Zealanders to never start smoking.

She acknowledges the proposed changes could negatively impact some small businesses and that measures to combat this will be needed.

Consultation on the smokefree action plan is open until May 31 and the public is being encouraged to submit their feedback on it here

Is housing killing horticulture?

A new report by the Ministry for the Environment has raised alarm over how much highly productive land, needed to grow food, is being lost to housing.

Just 15 per cent of New Zealand's land is good for food production, and the ministry says it's at risk of being gobbled up by urban development.

Secretary for the Environment Vicky Robertson says if current trends continue, there will be an economic cost with the supply of vegetables becoming more expensive.

Palace reveals more funeral details

Princes William and Harry will not walk together when they join senior royals in their grandfather’s funeral procession this weekend.

The Duke of Cambridge and Duke of Sussex will be separated by their cousin Peter Philips when they walk behind the Duke of Edinburgh’s coffin on Sunday morning (NZT).

A Buckingham Palace spokesman refused to be drawn on why the brothers will not be walking as a pair.

Other details for the funeral were released overnight, including the 30-person guest list and the dress code. 

Other news of note this morning:

- India’s reported more than 200,000 new Covid-19 cases in a single day, while concerns are also mounting over the rapid spread of the virus in Brazil.

- The former police officer accused of killing George Floyd won’t testify on his own behalf as the defence rests its case.

- Corrections says they weren’t aware of murderer Venod Skantha's denied appeal before he was found dead at Otago Corrections Facility on Wednesday afternoon.

- Police Minister Poto Williams says shots fired in an Auckland hotel yesterday morning related to a gang conflict between the Mongols and the Headhunters.

- Lessons learned after the Canterbury earthquakes are being used to improve the mental health of New Zealand’s children

- New Zealand border workers are trialling an app aimed at the early detection of Covid-19 symptoms.

- All Black TJ Perenara is believed to be considering a shock move to rugby league and the NRL.

- And it would appear some of us still need to learn how Zoom works after a Canadian lawmaker was somehow caught starkers during a virtual meeting of the House of Commons.

And finally...

Jersey Boys cast members speak to Jeremy Wells. Source: Seven Sharp

Until Covid came along, hit show Jersey Boys had been playing somewhere in the world ever since 2005.

But after its pandemic-related hiatus, the musical, which celebrates Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, is finally returning to the stage in little old New Zealand.

Cast members chatted to Seven Sharp’s Jeremy Wells last night - although not at Auckland’s beautiful Civic theatre but at a less majestic failed shopping mall called TVNZ (his words, not mine).

You can find that interview here, which includes a little serenading with a reworked 'Jerry Baby'.