Jacinda Ardern admits Kiwis have “absolutely missed” Australians since borders closed amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
This morning, the Prime Minister, dubbed ”New Zealand’s number one travel agent”, was on Australian morning shows encouraging those across the ditch to visit New Zealand when borders between the nations open at 11.59pm on April 18.
Her Government's decision, announced yesterday, brings New Zealand into line with Australia's border settings, and means people can flow freely between the two countries for the first time since the onset of Covid-19.
“I can’t believe I am saying this but we have absolutely missed you and we want you to come and see us again,” Ardern told Nine News' Today Show.
“Distance makes the heart grow fonder. That’s definitely the case for us here, I think.
“I am excited, it’s been a long time. I have family and friends in Australia and I have some who have had some really devastating situations here in New Zealand that they’ve been apart from.”
Ardern said after “a hard, long year” the bubble was “a step back to normal” for both New Zealand and Australia.
However, she added that the delay was about wanting to get the bubble right.
Ardern said so much had been learned since the beginning discussions about a travel bubble between the two neighbouring nations.
“We now believe and know that we can safely manage outbreaks without necessarily having that prolonged, month-long period in the aftermath of a case, so time has been of benefit to us.
“I think we now have a regime that will be flexible but pretty sophisticated and ultimately it means now we’re in a position to welcome you here and to do it safely, which is what we’re all so excited about.”
With the new bubble soon to open, it means families will be able to reunite – many of whom have been separated for a year and have missed births, funerals, birthdays and other events.
“You won't find a Kiwi that won’t have a story of someone in Australia that they’ve missed and they just really want to welcome back, so that is probably the most important thing,” Ardern said.
But as well, the bubble is expected to have a big economic impact for both nations.
“We also miss hosting you,” Ardern said.
“Tourism is important to us as a country, it’s part of who we are, our hospitality is part of who we are. You make up about 40 per cent of our tourism here and about $2.7 billion worth of spend and so yes, that is a bonus to us. It is an added bonus, but nothing like the human-to-human contact for us that is so important.”
For anyone who doesn’t have connections in the other country, though, Ardern said “everyone needs a break”, suggesting a change of scenes for Australians to come and visit New Zealand.
“Come and visit one of our cities and enjoy our food, our drink, our shopping, or if you just need a bit of R&R come and visit a wide open space, our nature, our ski fields. Our experiences are incredible.
“New Zealanders have been relishing that opportunity. We’ve been doing that ourselves and our tourism sector have really benefitted from Kiwis seeing their own backyard, but we’d love to have Aussies come and join in what we’ve been doing for the last year.”