Coronavirus: 'Smart border' could allow New Zealand to reopen to countries beyond Australia, Pacific Islands

Grant Robertson is hopeful New Zealand's efforts to create "the world's most intelligent border" will allow us to open promptly to not just Australia and the Pacific Islands, but other countries too.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called for the creation of the world's smartest border in April. She said an improved border system would use "technology and our 'natural moat'" to protect Kiwis from the virus and move people and goods safely again.

The Finance Minister says while COVID-19 border restrictions "are going to be with us for some time to come", a smart border could allow us to open to international travellers more quickly and kickstart our floundering tourism industry.

Discussions around a trans-Tasman travel bubble with Australia have hit a snag in recent weeks, but he's optimistic that can be resolved soon and we can open our borders to other nations as well.

"Everyone's well aware of the first moves we want to make in terms of Australia, and I would hope for the Pacific as well in the fairly near-term," Robertson told Magic Talk on Thursday.

"What you'll see over a period of time is our ability to do checks at the border, create what we'd call the world's most intelligent border - or smart border - so that we're doing all of the checks both before someone gets on a plane and when they land here.

"You can imagine temperature-testing and other types of information-gathering taking place so we're really confident that people can come in.

"Over time that will improve, and potentially could lead to [open borders with] other countries."

Last week, Ardern revealed a trans-Tasman bubble could realistically be in effect by September, although she's been careful not to lock down a specific date.

"Needless to say, [Australian] Prime Minister [Scott] 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," she said.

Robertson says while we're in a good position with COVID-19 at the moment, "we've got to be careful" - and border restrictions play a major role in keeping Kiwis safe.

"Our success has meant that we're actually well-ahead of other countries in the world… so we can celebrate our success as a country, but we do need to accept that borders restrictions of different sorts will be with us for some time to come," he said.

"Obviously between Australia and New Zealand we've always had pretty free movement of people, and we want to be able to support that - but I don't think it would work for most tourists.

"There may be some who want to spend two weeks in a nice lodge somewhere in New Zealand in isolation, but that won't work for Australian tourists coming over for the weekend to go skiing - so we have to be able to have different arrangements.

"That's the very reason for stepping through this carefully."

New National leader Todd Muller last week said it's time to think beyond Australia and encouraged the prospect of opening our borders to other countries, including China.

However he said the trans-Tasman bubble "needs to be an absolute priority".

"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."

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