Jacinda Ardern says systems are in place for a state-by-state or nationwide trans-Tasman bubble with Australia, but if our neighbours opt for a whole country approach "we'll be waiting" a while.
The Prime Minister told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning that while Victoria is still battling Covid-19 she wouldn't risk New Zealand's gains.
Victoria recorded 74 fresh coronavirus cases yesterday, bringing the state's total confirmed infections to 2536.
"Ultimately, it really comes down to choices by Australia," Ms Ardern said.
"Some of the states have actually put their own borders up, so they've created their own state bubbles, and so if Australia chose to say, 'Well OK, we have a Covid-free state,' and they're in a position where they can travel that would be up to them.
"We have a system that would work with a state-by-state approach or a whole country approach; if it's whole country we'll be waiting because obviously there is community transmission in Victoria and we can't risk that.
"It will come down to Australia really making those calls, but in the meantime we are of course making sure we have our house in order and our decision making framework ready to go."
Ms Ardern said Kiwis have experienced lockdown and no one wants to have to go back.
"We have to make sure whatever we do doesn't risk what we have. The idea is to build on what we have, not go backwards."
Speaking more generally about relaxing New Zealand's borders, Ms Ardern also said technology had been rapidly evolving on ways to test easier and operate borders in the Covid-19 era.
"There is more development under way. Even trials are being done at the moment on saliva testing, trials are being done on one-hour rapid turn-around testing. All of those open up new opportunities," she said.
"Now I hear the call for clarity around some of those plans. Well, we have been around those that sit in front of us. The longer term plans we, of course, are doing work but some of those technologies will take a little bit of time to develop.
"We have to make sure our house is in order in preparation for that but we will always use the overlay - how do we keep New Zealand safe? How do we keep our freedoms?"