'Put aside the old trans-Tasman rivalry' with Australia travel bubble, Deputy PM says

The newly announced Australia-New Zealand travel bubble is an opportunity for both countries to "put aside the old trans-Tasman rivalry", according to Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson.

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The Deputy Prime Minister says both countries should take the opportunity to recognise we've both done well against Covid-19. Source: Breakfast

From the rugby field to general bickering, Kiwis and Aussies often clash over who is better. 

But with both countries cracking down with successful Covid-19 elimination strategies and now preparing for quarantine-free travel, Robertson reckons it's time to embrace those across the ditch.

"This is a very low risk situation, and actually it's probably a moment for us to put aside the old trans-Tasman rivalry and actually say both countries have done well," he told Breakfast this morning.

"Both countries have been looking towards a form of elimination and we are now the first two countries in the world who've done that who now have this free travel, and I think that's a testament to the hard work of the people in both countries."

Robertson disagrees with criticism, including from National leader Judith Collins, that the travel bubble has been too slow in the making.

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"I'm never going to apologise for prioritising New Zealanders' health and safety," he says. 

"Everybody in the country knows that we've worked carefully and cautiously through Covid. It's meant that actually the New Zealand economy has been operating far better than most of those other countries overseas, because we've had our own freedom of movement within New Zealand. 

"Yes, we've been missing out on some of these international tourist arrivals... but actually our economy has been operating at a higher level than most other countries."

The travel bubble will open at 11.59pm on April 18, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced yesterday.

It'll operate on a "traffic light system" that will see quarantine-free travel continue, pause or suspend depending on cases in either country.

"People will need to plan for the possibility of having travel disrupted if there is an outbreak," Ardern warned, saying people travel between the countries "under the guidance of 'flyer beware'".

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The Prime Minister said she knows many will welcome the new travel options like she has. Source: 1 NEWS

As well as the light-hearted ribbing, there are some serious clashes between policies across the ditch.

Notably, Ardern and her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison frequently spar over Australia's 501 deportation policy, which can see New Zealand-born, Australian-raised people deported if they fail a character test.

Meanwhile, the travel bubble won't mean a sudden increase in availability for managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities.

Some may be withdrawn from the system altogether, Robertson says.

"One of the things Chris Hipkins is looking at, as the minister responsible for MIQ, is going back through all of those facilities and saying, well, are they all completely fit for purpose?" he says.

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"And it's possible that one or two of them, we might pull out from the MIQ process, particularly because we're looking at these issues around ventilation systems."

Robertson says they also want to make sure they maintain a "buffer" in case quarantine-free travel gets suspended and people do need to isolate again upon returning to New Zealand.

"But there will be some other rooms freed up. The exact number of those is what we're working on at the moment."

While the Australia travel bubble has just been announced, work is still underway for a two-way travel bubble with the Cook Islands — which hasn't seen a single case of Covid-19 since the pandemic began.

An announcement on that is expected for May.