Queenstown bars and restaurants fizzing over trans-Tasman bubble, but cautiousness remains

Queenstown bars and restaurants are fizzing over the April 19 trans-Tasman travel bubble, but cautiousness remains among some Kiwis. 

At Pier restaurant and bar in Queenstown, the travel bubble news was celebrated on Tuesday 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, cabin fever Kiwis 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". 

Others expressed excitement about the prospect of exploring new parts of Australia. 

"There's lots of Australia I haven't seen before," a woman told Newshub. 

There are some reservations about the travel bubble. 

One man said he hopes the Government will be "very cautious to make sure we've got no opportunity for COVID to come back into New Zealand".  

Flights are filling up fast, however.

"Look, there are certainly some people who are keen to get away right now," says House of Travel's Brent Thomas. "They've just had 12 months stuck in New Zealand, and as much as it's got to offer, they're keen to get away."

But it's flyer beware if you find yourself in bubble trouble. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday no support will be provided to New Zealanders who get stranded in Australia in the event of an outbreak. 

"Look, no," she said. "We're essentially telling people to prepare."

A bit like our COVID-19 alert level system, the Government is introducing a traffic light alert system if COVID-19 cases emerge in Australia after the travel bubble is in place. 

Queenstown bars and restaurants fizzing over trans-Tasman bubble, but cautiousness remains
Photo credit: Supplied

Green means it will continue. This is for low-risk cases, like those linked to the border. 

Orange is when the bubble will be paused. This is if the source is unknown but it's likely linked to the border. Travel would be restricted for 72 hours. 

Red is when the bubble will be suspended. This would happen in the event of multiple cases, an unknown source, and a lockdown. Travel would be terminated from that outbreak spot. 

The Government has been talking about this travel bubble for a year. 

"I just wonder why it's taken so long," says National leader Judith Collins. 

It's a fair question, because Australia has been operating a one-way travel bubble with New Zealand since October last year - Kiwis can fly there without isolating. 

Going both ways means one of our first visitors is likely to be Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. 

Ardern said the plan is to bring Morrison to "an area that has previously enjoyed high levels of international visitors and that we'll want to put back on the world stage". 

On Wednesday, Ardern will begin her Aussie tourism charm offensive, in a round of morning media with Australian news outlets. 

Ardern described New Zealand as "a safe place to bring your family to come and visit". 

The travel bubble will come with rules. There is no flying if you have cold or flu symptoms, you have to hand over contact details, and wear a mask on board flights. 

There will be no mixing of passengers from Australia and high-risk countries, and airlines will have to operate separate crews too. 

You could face other rules too if there has been an Australian outbreak: monitoring yourself for symptoms, pre-departure testing, isolating at home, or in extreme cases into an isolation hotel. 

One of the big risks is of course being stranded. The border closures state-by-state could happen instantly with no notice. We don't have to give Australia any warning, and we already know Australia has no compunction about slamming the door closed in our face.