The Queenstown-Lakes District Mayor is excited by new reports of a potential trans-Tasman bubble on the horizon, but warns it must be a two-way arrangement.
As COVID-19 cases dropped in April in New Zealand and Australia, authorities on both sides of the Tasman began work on developing an air corridor between the countries which wouldn't require quarantine measures. But that was delayed after a resurgence of the virus in both Melbourne and Auckland.
Reports out of Australia over the last two days, however, suggest a bubble could be up and running before the end of the year between particular states and New Zealand.
Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham said travel would initially be only for Kiwis from the South Island - which hasn't recently had any community transmission - to travel to Australia.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told The AM Show on Monday that the new approach would aim to avoid COVID-19 'hotspots' that remain dotted throughout Australia.
"[We] were previously working on the idea of a whole-of-Australia approach. They've now changed their position and said they could work on a state-by-state and what they call 'hotspots' approach. That does open opportunities for us," Ardern told The AM Show on Monday.
Jim Boult, the Queenstown-Lakes Mayor, told Newshub that the tourism centre has suffered from a lack of international travellers, so he was keen to see a bubble open up.
"Travel between Australia and New Zealand is very important to us. Having the bubble open is great because it would allow Australians to visit our part of the world," he said.
"We should only do this if we are satisfied if the risk to Kiwis is very low. But we have been in favour of a trans-Tasman bubble right from the time it was first discussed. We remain in favour of that. If that is state by state, that is okay. Again though, with that proviso that the risk of transmission is very low."
But Boult is worried about the suggestion that travel would initially be one-way.
"I am a bit concerned though at some reports saying the intention is only to allow New Zealanders to travel to Australia. Clearly, that would do absolutely nothing for and it would be a bit of a disaster, to be honest, as it would cost us a significant part of the domestic market," he told Newshub.
"In my view, if it happens, it has to be a two-way street. Otherwise, as I say, it is not good from where we sit."
Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said the bubble could happen quickly if the Australians put in place the proper protocols. He doesn't support only Kiwis travelling to Australia, however.
"If it's all Aussie's way then we're going to be drained of our wealth because we're going to be going offshore with no reciprocation from Australia," Peters said, according to NZME.
A Newshub-Reid Research poll this week found that 50.7 percent of respondents don't want a bubble with Australia until it's completely free of COVID-19 and there was no community transmission in the country. A further 41.6 percent said they would support forming bubbles but only with states that have no community transmission, and 4.9 percent want an all-of-Australia bubble right now.
Boult told Newshub that his district was currently benefiting from travellers over the school holidays.
"We always thought the school holidays would be great and they are nice and busy. We will make the most of it while they are here. We had the added bonus of some really good snow. Kiwis coming here with the hope of having some late-season skiing are going to get it in bucket fulls over the next few days."