One year on from New Zealand's maritime border closing, tourism operators are pleading for the reopening of a trans-Tasman cruise ship bubble.
It’s an industry that typically brings in hundreds of millions of dollars to the economy each year, a vital income for local ports and businesses.
Overseas the global cruise ship industry is picking up steam again, with more than 350,000 passengers having travelled by sea to international ports without infection since July, 2020.
But the Ministry of Health is refusing to budge with cruise ships explicitly excluded from the travel bubble.
At this stage there’s no time frame for when New Zealand's maritime border is set to reopen.
Before Covid-19, Tauranga had the most extensive cruise tour offering of any New Zealand port – contributing more than $90 million to the local economy.
In March last year, 90 per cent of Waimarino Ltd’s business dried up overnight as the country closed its doors to the rest of the world.
The business, which operates a water park and kayak tours just north of Tauranga, has been in Blair Anderson’s family for decades but without a steady flow of customers, he’s struggling.
Now Anderson is begging for the maritime border to ease, at least partially, as travel between New Zealand and Australia starts up.
“Please think of the health and wellbeing of citizens,” Anderson told 1 NEWS.
“We should be opening up between Australia and New Zealand if we can have air flights which can transfer Covid really fast. We should be able to do it slowly where we can control it better.”
The New Zealand Cruise Association agrees.
“More than 50 per cent of the cruise passengers are from Australia, so it’s really critical that we bring Australians in to make sure we have a viable cruise industry,” says CEO Kevin O’Sullivan.
Representatives from the cruise ship industry will meet with the Government on Monday, desperately hoping for big ships back here soon.