Todd Muller doubts a trans-Tasman travel bubble would be in place by now if he was Prime Minister, but says he would provide more clarity than the Government has.
The National Party leader on Sunday called on the Government to put forward a timeline for the opening of the trans-Tasman travel bubble "immediately" to allow businesses to plan for the future.
But when asked by Magic Talk's Peter Williams on Monday if the travel bubble would be in place by now if he was Prime Minister, Muller responded: "I very much doubt it."
Muller acknowledged the implications of opening the border to Australia, including the fact that it does not have an elimination strategy like New Zealand, and that it still has more than 400 active cases of COVID-19.
By comparison, New Zealand has had no new cases of COVID-19 for more than a fortnight, and as of Monday, there are no longer any active cases.
But Muller said the Government needs to at least provide a timeline of when a potential border bubble with Australia could happen, because many businesses - particularly in the tourism sector - will be relying on it.
"Is our strategy going to be that everybody else that we connect with has to be at zero and have an elimination strategy? That will have a massive implication for this economy and this country if that's the strategy."
He said all businesses are getting from the Government is "silence".
"I think they need to fill that silence with a very clear direction for New Zealand as to how we are going to integrate with other countries that aren't as advanced, if you like, in terms of eliminating the virus, as we are."
Muller said the idea of a trans-Tasman bubble is "vexed" and that there isn't a simple solution. But he said he would prioritise giving answers "with some clarity" on when it could potentially happen, if he was leading the country.
"All of this is behind a curtain. No one's got a sense of what the Government's thinking."
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has been promoting the idea of a trans-Tasman travel bubble for more than a month, and has said it should be in place by now.
But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been more cautious. She told reporters last month there's a chance the bubble could be in place by September.
She said she and her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison are "very, very keen" to open up the border between the two countries when it's safe to do so.
There are also growing calls for the Government to establish a travel bubble with the Pacific before Australia, with one public health expert saying it's a "no-brainer".
But Peters has indicated he's worried about COVID-19 being exported to the islands.
Japan is also in the queue to re-establish a travel connection with New Zealand, and Peters is speaking to his Japanese counterpart about that possibility.