A trans-Tasman travel arrangement could be arranged in the future, but Kiwis shouldn't expect to be freely travelling back and forth to Australia anytime soon, the Finance Minister says.
Both Australia and New Zealand are having success in containing the SARS-CoV-2 virus, with relatively similar numbers of cases per capita and flattening epidemic curves. New Zealand will leave lockdown next week and transition to restrictions which are similar to Australia in that physical distancing is still required, but more businesses can operate.
While the nations are expected to keep their borders closed for months as the rest of the world grapples with - and in some places struggles with - the COVID-19 pandemic, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday that New Zealand would be among the first countries his would "reconnect with". He confirmed he had discussions about it with New Zealand's Prime Minister.
Asked on Friday about the so-called trans-Tasman travel bubble, Kiwi Finance Minister Grant Robertson said it was something that may be arranged in the future.
"It is very early days. We all know as New Zealanders that one of the things that allowed to be in the strong position we are in terms of getting on top of this virus are our border restrictions. The Prime Minister has been clear those border restrictions will be with us for some time to come," he told reporters.
"The good news is that both New Zealand and Australia are doing well in terms of fighting the virus so sometime in the future it may be possible, but I don't think people should get ahead of themselves. Those discussions are at an early level."
On whether it could be done on a state-by-state level, Robertson's message remained the same.
"Clearly, in Australia, there are different responses in different states. It is very important for us that we continue to maintain the integrity of our border. It has been one of the best things we have done in fighting this virus and I, along with all New Zealanders, want us to get to the point when we can see some movement of people across our borders and start those relationships with Australia again, but it will take some time for us to get there."
Last week, Jacinda Ardern said travel arrangements were "part of my ongoing agenda with PM Morrison" and discussions had also started with Singapore.
The closure of borders globally has decimated international tourism and had a significant impact on businesses. Currently, New Zealand mostly only allows Kiwis into the country. Anyone entering must stay in quarantine for at least 14 days.
According to Tourism New Zealand, New Zealand is the top destination for Australians travelling around the world, with Australians likely to return to Aotearoa on average four times. In December 2019 - prior to reports of a virus emerging in China - 196,366 people arrived in New Zealand from Australia, an increase of 2382 on December 2018.
Air New Zealand's overall international capacity has been reduced by 95 percent due to the pandemic. In regard to current trans-Tasman travel, the airline only has three return services to Sydney and two to Brisbane and Melbourne each week.