Live: Trans-Tasman travel bubble: Jacinda Ardern announces date of quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced the trans-Tasman travel bubble, allowing quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand, will commence on April 19. 

Here's what we know:

  • To be eligible for a quarantine-free flight, you must not have had a positive COVID-19 test result in the previous 14-days and you cannot be awaiting a test result. 
  • Those undertaking travel will do so under the guidance of "travel beware", because both countries will have the right to stop quarantine-free travel in the event of an outbreak. 
  • Australians travelling to New Zealand will arrive on 'green zone' flights. There will be no passengers on those flights who have come from anywhere but Australia in the last 14 days.
  • Passengers will be required to wear a mask on their flight, and Australians will be asked to download and use the NZ COVID Tracer app while in New Zealand. 
  • Passengers will be taken through 'green zones' at the airport. There will be no contact with those who are arriving from other parts of the world and going into managed isolation or quarantine.
  • Australia and New Zealand closed their international borders to non-citizens and residents in March 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Australia has allowed quarantine-free travel for Kiwis since October, state-by-state. New South Wales and Victoria currently allow quarantine-free travel for Kiwis, but it's not reciprocated by New Zealand. 
  • Quarantine-free travel between the two countries has been floated several times, but attempts have been quashed by breakouts on both sides of the ditch, and the Australian Federal Government changing its mind. 
  • Officials had concluded 11 rounds of talks with Australia on a joint set of rules, which is what New Zealand had been working towards, but Australia favoured each country having the right to suspend travel as they saw fit. 
  • An example came in January when Australia suddenly shut off quarantine-free travel for Kiwis in the wake of the Northland community case, which angered Jacinda Ardern because it left Kiwis stranded. 
  • There was speculation in Australian media the travel bubble would begin on April 12. Air New Zealand also appeared to be ramping up flights to Australia from April 9. But Ardern said the commencement date hadn't been shared prior to the announcement. 
Live: Trans-Tasman travel bubble: Jacinda Ardern announces date of quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand
Photo credit: Supplied

These live updates have finished.

8:45pm - The trans-Tasman bubble means about 1300 spots will free up in managed isolation.

About 500 of those will be kept open as a contingency in case there's an outbreak, but migrant workers want the rooms used to bring in their loved ones who they haven't seen for more than a year.

Some migrant workers have been separated from their families for more than 540 days. They gathered at Parliament on Tuesday in protest.

Engineer Colin Forrest arrived before his family, to set up their new life here - then COVID slammed the borders shut.

"It just becomes difficult -  more difficult by the day," he told Newshub.

Read and watch the full story here.

8pm - The thousands of families who call both Australia and New Zealand home are thrilled at the bubble announcement.

For Jayne Knight in Christchurch, it's an overwhelming feeling of joy.

"Hayley can come home now and be with her family. Happy tears," she says.

Her 30-year-old daughter is dying of cancer in Melbourne. With just months left to live, this is Hayley's ticket home to say goodbye.

"I'm coming home!" Hayley says as she video-calls her mum.

Read and watch the full story from Newshub's Australia correspondent Emma Cropper.

7:30pm - Towns and businesses that depend on international tourists say today's announcement will save thousands of jobs.

While many acknowledge the bubble may not be the silver bullet, they also point out Aussies spend twice as much as Kiwis.

Akaroa Dolphin tours are one tourism business who are glad to see the bubble open.

"We desperately wanted the borders to be reopened. There's a lot of businesses in Akaroa that are in extreme hardship," says Akaroa Dolphin founder Hugh Waghorn.

Read the full story here.

7:20pm - New Zealanders are over the moon to be able to visit our Antipodean neighbours once again, and took to social media in their hundreds to express their excitement on Tuesday afternoon.

"Yay quarantine free travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand," one wrote. "Time to use up the travel credit from last year's cancelled flights."

"Welp there goes all my money on all this Australian travel. I want to catch up with friends and family. Send money plz," wrote another.

Read the full story here.

6:50pm - Queenstown bars and restaurants are fizzing over the trans-Tasman travel bubble announcement, but cautiousness remains among some Kiwis. 

At Pier restaurant and bar in Queenstown, the travel bubble news was celebrated by cracking open some bubbles. 

"The whole town's been waiting for this," said Ellen Murphy of Wolf Hospitality Group. "I think it's given us a little bit of optimism and finally something to look forward to. The businesses have very much been struggling."

Across the country, Kiwis with cabin fever can't wait to bolt. 

"I'd love to travel overseas again," one man told Newshub, while another said he had been "stuck in this prison of 5 million". 

But there are some reservations.

Read and watch the full story from Newshub's political editor Tova O'Brien here.

6:20pm - Air New Zealand has ramped up its number of flights and Qantas has launched new routes in response to the travel bubble.

Air NZ will increase flights between Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Queenstown to eight of its Australian ports.

Qantas and Jetstar are also significantly increasing the number of trans-Tasman flights they operate, saying customers can expect up to 122 per week.

Qantas' schedule includes year-round direct flights to Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown, including direct flights from Brisbane and Melbourne to Queenstown, routes Qantas traditionally only operated seasonally for the ski season peak.

A new daily service from the Gold Coast to Auckland will commence when the bubble opens, marking Qantas' first ever international flights from Gold Coast Airport. The new Cairns-Auckland route will launch in time for the June long weekend, operating three days per week.

Read the full story here.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he is "very pleased" about the bubble announcement.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he is "very pleased" about the bubble announcement. Photo credit: Getty Images

6:05pm - Morrison says he's encouraging states to use a "proportionate response" if there's an outbreak in Australia or New Zealand and borders have to be temporarily closed.

He adds while both countries have been successful in using an elimination strategy, he says both him and Ardern understand they aren't in a COVID-free world yet.

6pm - Morrison says he expects travel to Australia to increase since New Zealanders won't have to go into quarantine upon return.

He couldn't give an outline on any additional travel bubbles.

"We have looked at places like Singapore and Japan and South Korea, and countries like this, but at this stage we are not in a position to move forward on any of those at this point."

5:55pm - Morrison says it's "tremendous" that the bubble will be open in time for Anzac Day, and that it'll create jobs for Australia.

"It means more planes in the air, more jobs on the ground and in the air as well for our airlines."

5:52pm - Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is speaking.

"Six months ago almost that Australia opened up to New Zealand, and I am very pleased that the New Zealand Government has decided that the two-way travel bubble will commence Monday fortnight," he said.

"Prime Minister Ardern called me last night and we had a very positive discussion about this. It is something we have been talking about for some time."

5:43pm - Qantas and Jetstar will resume flights to and from New Zealand on all 13 routes open before the pandemic as well as two others, from Auckland to Cairns and the Gold Coast.

The airlines will operate up to 122 return flights per week across the Tasman once the bubble comes into effect, offering more than 52,000 seats.

5:38pm - ACT leader David Seymour isn't happy with the "late" delivery of the travel bubble, alleging Ardern is only acting now because she "couldn't treat us like lucky little prisoners any longer".

"For the Prime Minister to get up today and talk about 'green zones' at airports like she discovered something new and deserved a Nobel Prize for it is galling in the extreme," he said in a statement.

"Holding up a traffic light system on a sheet of A3 paper like the one epidemiologist Professors Michael Baker and Nick Wilson mooted months ago is also outrageous.

"It's been obvious that all these steps were the way forward since New South Wales introduced them in October.

"We know the bubble will work and it will improve the lives of countless New Zealanders and Australians. It's how the Australian states have been working for months and there is no excuse for New Zealand being so late to join."

5:33pm - Australia's Tourism and Trade Minister Dan Tehan is scheduled to respond to New Zealand's trans-Tasman bubble announcement at about 5:40pm. We'll bring you live updates from the press conference.

5:13pm - The Government's official Unite against COVID-19 unit has provided information on Twitter about the upcoming trans-Tasman travel bubble arrangement.

Click on the link below to view the thread. 

5:05pm - Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran says the airline will be ramping up flights between Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown and eight of its Australian ports, in the wake of the trans-Tasman bubble announcement.

"This is terrific news. I know Kiwis and Australians have been wanting to reconnect with whānau and friends for a year now and we're incredibly excited to be playing a part in those reunions," Foran said.

"I'll certainly be digging out my passport for the first time since I joined the airline to head across the ditch to see my family and I'm especially looking forward to meeting some of my grandchildren for the first time."

He said the airline has been preparing for a few months now, bringing crew back on board and ensuring they are up to speed with training, along with making sure international airports and lounges are ready for the influx of customers. 

And there's good news for those who have already booked flights to Australia before the bubble commences.

Air New Zealand's international flexibility policy was recently extended so customers with flights scheduled to depart before December 31 have the ability to opt into credit or make a change to the date or time of the flight, with change fees waived. 

5pm - National leader Judith Collins says the Government should not consider the trans-Tasman bubble 'job done' when it comes to reconnecting New Zealand to the world.

"Australia was ready for quarantine-free travel last year, as were our airports. The delay in getting this bubble up and running has been on the New Zealand Government," Collins said.

"I want to thank the more than 45,000 people who signed National's petition and supported our call to get the trans-Tasman bubble open. It's clear the Government needed to be jolted into action on this."

She said the Government should now lay out its roadmap for how it plans to safely reconnect New Zealand to the world.

 "National believes the Government should be allow quarantine-free travel from Samoa, Tonga and Fiji into New Zealand, alongside our realm countries."

4:56pm - Auckland Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood says the facility is ready for the trans-Tasman bubble.

He said it will trigger a full operational split of Auckland Airport's international terminal to handle the physical separation of arrivals heading into managed isolation or quarantine.

The airport announced last August it was creating two fully separated zones within the international terminal to protect the health and safety of people flying to and from countries with which New Zealand had made quarantine-free arrangements.

"The full separation of travellers based on health risk is something we've been preparing to manage for some time now, working with Government border agencies and health officials on the solution," Littlewood said.

"It's a significant change to how we've been operating for more than a year now, but is a crucial step for ensuring the health and safety of the thousands of travellers that are going to be flying to and from safe travel zone countries, and the wider New Zealand community."

The main pier will be Zone A: Safe Travel area, which will be used by quarantine-free arrivals and all departures.

A second self-contained zone on the international terminal's Pier B will form Zone B: Health Management area for processing arrivals who are going on to managed isolation facilities and transit passengers.

The travel bubble will help bring up the heavily declined number of passengers arriving in New Zealand.

In January last year, 453,657 arrived and departed Auckland Airport on trans-Tasman routes. In January this year, that had fallen 98 percent to 10,684 passengers.

4:50pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she "carries the weight" of promoting New Zealand to Australia, and will be doing a round of Australian media on Wednesday morning. She said she'll consider travelling there.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will soon travel to New Zealand for his face-to-face meeting with Ardern, although the date has not yet been finalised.  

4:47pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the Government is "not anticipating charging" Australians who get stuck in New Zealand during their travel in the event of an outbreak.

4:43pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says there are "no firm plans" for travel bubbles beyond trans-Tasman bubble, and the planned May commencement date of the Cook Islands bubble.

Ardern said the idea of a Singapore bubble has been floated for some time, but at this stage it's only a "hypothetical". If Australia decided to open up to Singapore, she said the Government would address it at the time.

4:40pm - Tourism New Zealand estimates quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand resuming will bring in $1 billion to the economy by the end of the year. 

Prior to COVID-19, Australians made up almost 40 percent of international arrivals to New Zealand and contributed around 24 percent or $2.7 billion of New Zealand's annual international visitor spend.

Australians spent $2.7 billion in New Zealand in 2019.   

With quarantine-free travel commencing on April 19, Tourism NZ interim chief executive René de Monchy says it could go some way in helping to reduce the estimated $12.9 billion expected gap from the loss of international visitors.

Tourism NZ research shows that over half of Australians are motivated to have a holiday that includes fun and enjoyment (56 percent) and to relax and refresh (53 percent). 

The same research shows 89 percent of New Zealanders believe that re-starting tourism when it is safe to do so is important for the wellbeing of New Zealanders.   

4:33pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says if you have booked flights to Australia before the trans-Tasman bubble date, airlines have indicated they will allow rebooking of those flights. Ardern suggested rebooking the flight and cancelling your space in MIQ. 

4:28pm - Business NZ chief executive Kirk Hope says the announcement of a trans-Tasman travel bubble is a win for both side of the ditch.

"New Zealand's tourism and hospitality sectors have suffered the full force of COVID-19. Today's news will give them great encouragement that there is light at the end of the tunnel," Hope said.

''Australia is our second biggest trading partner and New Zealand's largest international visitor market, accounting for almost half of all international visitor arrivals so this is an important step in getting our key service sectors operating again."

4:25pm - COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says it's estimated the trans-Tasman travel bubble will free up 1000 to 1300 rooms per fortnight within managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ).

Of those, the Government will retain roughly 500 spaces as contingency should they be needed for the Trans-Tasman arrangement.

The Government is also considering decommissioning some of the facilities, which are considered only suitable for travellers from low-risk countries.

"We also have a small number of facilities that we consider to have only been suitable for travellers in quarantine from low risk countries," Hipkins said.

"With the opening of travel, we will look to decommission these facilities - but in the meantime we are considering whether they could be used for other low risk countries, such as the Pacific Islands."

Because of that, Hipkins said the Government does not anticipate a large number of vacant quarantine spaces to come on stream.

There will, however, still be thousands of spaces in MIQ for Kiwis," he said. "That's how we have helped 130,000 safely return home through our managed isolation facilities."

4:18pm - Autumn school holidays begin on April 17 and end on May 2 in New Zealand. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says school holidays did not factor into the Government's decision-making on the trans-Tasman bubble.

4:15pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she's been advised by Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield that the risk of transmission of COVID-19 from Australia to New Zealand is low and that quarantine free travel is safe to commence.

But Dr Bloomfield will be providing an update next Wednesday about whether he believes the recent outbreak in Queensland is contained. 

4:10pm - The Government has provided a breakdown of how a COVID-19 case in Australia would be managed under the quarantine-free travel arrangement. 

Live: Trans-Tasman travel bubble: Jacinda Ardern announces date of quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand
Photo credit: Supplied

4:05pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins have confirmed the conditions for starting up quarantine-free travel with Australia.

To be eligible to travel to or from New Zealand on a quarantine-free flight, you must not have had a positive COVID-19 test result in the previous 14-day period and must not be awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test taken during that 14-day period.

Australians travelling to New Zealand will arrive on 'green zone' flights. That means that there will be no passengers on that flight who have come from anywhere but Australia in the last 14 days.

They will also be flown by crew who have not flown on any high-risk routes.

"Passengers will need to provide comprehensive information on how they can be contacted while in New Zealand, complete a pre-departure health declaration and won't be able to travel if they have cold or flu symptoms," Hipkins said.

"When they fly, they will be required to wear a mask on their flight, and will also be asked to download and use the NZ COVID Tracer app while in New Zealand."

On arrival, Hipkins said passengers will be taken through 'green zones' at the airport, meaning there will be no contact with those who are arriving from other parts of the world and going into managed isolation or quarantine.

"We will also be undertaking random temperature checks of those arriving as an added precaution," Hipkins said.

Final infection control audits for airports are occurring over the next two weeks and are a requirement for each airport to operate. The Ministry of Health expects to have completed these and to have reported on them April 16. 

4pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced the trans-Tasman travel bubble, allowing quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand, will commence on April 19. 

3:55pm - The Prime Minister will announce at 4pm when the trans-Tasman travel bubble will commence during a press conference at the Beehive in Wellington. 

3:35pm - National leader Judith Collins told reporters earlier on Tuesday she thinks National's online petition urging the Government to get a move on with the trans-Tasman travel bubble deserves the "biggest credit" for making it happen.

Read more about it here.

3:15pm - In a grilling by ACT leader David Seymour, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern defended in Parliament how long it has taken the Government to get travel bubbles up and running. 

Seymour asked: "Does the Prime Minister think it's smart that people from countries that have never had a case of COVID are quarantined for 14 days next door to people from COVID hotspots?"

Ardern said in each case there will be different circumstances, and explained how the planned May commencement date of a Cook Islands travel bubble came from confidence that it could be undertaken safely.

On Australia, Ardern said: "They of course have a state system which has led to complications for them around movement. They have not also simultaneously opened up to New Zealand... not all states have opened to New Zealand. So I don't think it's a fair comparison to what they've done as a country and what we have done as a country."

3pm - ACT leader David Seymour has grilled Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern about the trans-Tasman bubble announcement and why it has taken so long to get underway.

Seymour asked Ardern in Parliament if she stood by her statement in April last year that border restrictions imposed in the wake of COVID-19 didn't mean New Zealand couldn't have the "smartest borders in the world".

Seymour asked: "Does she believe that in April 2021 we now have the smartest borders in the world?"

Ardern responded: "New Zealand has internationally been acknowledged for our elimination strategy and response to COVID-19 and our work at the border has been crucial to our response.

"It is important to note we continue to learn and improve as we move through our response. But our announcement later today on quarantine-free travel with Australia will represent a new chapter in our response and recovery to COVID-19."

1pm - The Ministry of Health has reported no new community cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand, but there are 17 new positive cases in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ). 

The Ministry of Health said the case numbers in MIQ underscore the value of having in place day one testing, as 13 out of the 17 cases were identified with this method.

In addition to day one testing, in January, the Government announced it was extending pre-departure testing to all passengers to New Zealand. 

The policy does not apply to travellers from Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Islands.

12pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is quashing rumours about when the trans-Tasman travel bubble will commence, ahead of the 4pm announcement. 

According to The Australian newspaper, Australian Federal Government and industry sources say the bubble is expected to begin on April 12 or 19. 

Air New Zealand also appears to be ramping up operations with flights between Auckland and Sydney and Auckland and Melbourne available from as early as April 9. 

"I've seen a wide-range of speculation in the media today and I know everyone's very keen to hear Cabinet's final decision and as soon as we've made that we'll be sharing it," Ardern told reporters on Tuesday in Parliament. 

On Air New Zealand, she said: "These will be decisions they will be making independently. They do not know Cabinet's decisions. They have indicated to us a range of dates they would be ready on. We have not told them the date we will be opening."