Judith Collins is urging the Government to open its borders to the Pacific Islands, saying it's time New Zealand stopped being so "paternalistic".
The National Party has been pushing for the Government to establish quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand for months - and now Collins has added the Pacific Islands to the plea.
"Fiji hasn't had a community case in around a year - Samoa and Tonga have never had one," she told Newshub Nation on Saturday.
"We need to support our Pacific neighbours with tourism because they have just gone through devastating economic times."
RNZ reports Samoa's economy collapsed by 8.6 percent in the 12 months to the end of September 2020.
The loss in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was heavily impacted by a complete loss of income to the country's tourism sector.
"We have to be realistic about it," said Collins.
"These economies have nothing except tourism and we're blocking them off."
Questioned on whether it would be "devastating" to export COVID-19 to islands which have not had community cases, Collins said it would - but New Zealand needs to stop being so "paternalistic" about it.
"We need to be far more upfront with our Pacific neighbours and stop treating them like they can't make decisions for themselves."
At the moment, travellers from the Cook Islands and Niue can enter into New Zealand without quarantine - but Collins says this must be extended to include other island nations, especially as demand for recognised seasonal employees (RSE) grows.
"An RSE worker could take back the equivalent of seven years work after six months in New Zealand."
She says it would be mutually beneficial as Kiwi businesses crack under the pressure of a lack of workers due to the border closures.
"They can't get people to work in berry picking - horticulture is worth $6 billion to New Zealand... But it's not just the money: these are family businesses just going to the wall."
The Government is working on various travel bubbles - including Australia and the Pacific but it's been a long time coming.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in July 2020 while some of the realm countries are keen to establish travel between themselves and New Zealand, others are more hesitant.
"It's not just about New Zealand, it's about the other countries too," Ardern told The AM Show.
"Everyone talks as if it's this very simple thing but it does take quite a lot of work. We need to know we are not going to create issues for parts of the Pacific that do not have COVID."