A trans-Tasman bubble with Australia could realistically be in place by September, the Prime Minister has revealed.
Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday she's been careful not to put down a specific date the two countries will allow travel between each other, but her and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison want to open up the borders as soon as it's safe.
"September is realistic, but I haven't given specifics around what date precisely. Needless to say, Prime Minister Morrison and I are very, very keen to see us moving towards an opening-up of our borders as soon as it's safe to do so.
"We are just giving ourselves the space to make sure that we are ready to go, that we are safe and that we're not going to export risks to one another."
She said once health officials and epidemiologists have deemed it safe and the two countries don't pose a risk to each other, then "we'll be ready to go".
"[I] have been very focused on making sure that as soon as we are ready, then we can move and that we won't be constrained by needing to do any administrative or logistical work at our borders."
A timetable released by Australia's Tourism Restart Taskforce shows Australians should be allowed to travel to New Zealand and any other "safe" country from as early as July 1.
Simon Birmingham, Australia's tourism minister, attended the taskforce's May 22 meeting where the proposed travel restart timetable was put together.
A test case plan was submitted for a "proof of concept" flight to operate between Canberra and Wellington on July 1. Onboard would be politicians, government officials, media and business representatives.
Despite publishing the document publicly, the taskforce describes its timetable as "aspirational" and concedes it needs to be approved by the governments of Australia and New Zealand.
The Canberra-Wellington route, which isn't commonly flown, was chosen due to the low instances of COVID-19 in both cities.
Opening borders to more countries
Ardern said on Tuesday once a bubble is opened with Australia, there could be an opportunity to open it more widely to the Pacific.
"One thing I'm very mindful of, not all Pacific Island neighbours see this in the same way. I know there's a lot of caution, rightly so, from the likes of Samoa."
New National Party leader Todd Muller took aim at the reopening of New Zealand's borders on Tuesday, saying it's time to think beyond Australia and consider more countries to open our borders to.
"We need to start thinking now about what would be the next sensible country to open. How can we move into other countries, like China, in due course in a way that keep our people safe but allow us to capture the opportunity of getting up there first," he said.
But while he wants a plan to open New Zealand's borders to more countries in the future, Australia should be first.
"The trans-Tasman bubble needs to be an absolute priority, because, at the moment, we've pushed this COVID threat down to basically zero… Our next-door neighbour Australia has had similar success in terms of their COVID response."