The Prime Minister says any travel bubbles with New Zealand need to be worked through with "absolute caution" - despite Auckland Airport today announcing it would be separating into two different zones to accommodate travel bubbles.
Auckland Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood said today the international terminal was preparing to separate different categories of travellers in anticipation of "a safe air corridor being formed between New Zealand and the Cook Islands".
"By reconfiguring our terminal into two separate zones we are creating a safe way for people to travel to and from countries that we have formed a travel bubble with, as well as being able to safely process New Zealanders arriving from other countries," he said.
Planning is in the final stages. However, it is not the same for the possibility of the Government's creation of any travel bubbles.
Previously touting September as being realistic for the creation of a trans-Tasman bubble, Ms Ardern said today any moves on bubbles must be made with "absolute caution".
"Everyone can see based on our clear criteria that we will not open a trans-Tasman bubble until it is safe. It will be obvious to everyone that it is not right now and it will not be for some time to come."
On if Auckland Airport's move brought New Zealand closer to a potential bubble, Ms Ardern said, "it's one part of many elements that need to be worked through".
"We have always moved cautiously and with very good reason.
"I feel utterly justified in making sure that if we move to quarantine-free travel, even with a place that is declared Covid-free such as the Cook Islands, we have to do it with absolute caution for New Zealand's safety and for the safety of the Pacific."
She said borders, including airports, were places "where people with Covid are moving, interacting and engaging, so they are very high risk environment".
"We have to move through this very, very carefully.
"We need to be absolutely assured when we're looking at any Pacific bubble with the likes of the Cook Islands that there is no contact between both people who might have come from high risk areas, but also making sure we're not engaging with the same surfaces.
"That's the level of rigor we need," she said.
"We have to have in place the legal arrangement, protocols for pre-checks for arrival and departure, health declarations, and whether or not you'd have things like testing or temperature checks as extra layers."