Trans-Tasman travel bubble: Judith Collins says National's online petition deserves 'biggest credit' for deal

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, says leader Judith Collins. 

The petition launched last month has garnered some 45,000 signatures, according to National, and Collins suggests it played a significant role in the Government preparing to announce a date for the bubble at 4pm on Tuesday. 

"I think our team in the National Party has been working really hard on this and I think we can take some credit," Collins told reporters on Tuesday. "But I think the biggest credit goes to the 45,000 people who signed our online petition."

Collins said it's a "good thing" the Government is setting a date for the highly anticipated travel bubble, but she questioned why it has taken so long. 

"We think it's taken an awfully long time and it is something that will be a great relief to many families who will want to see loved ones they've been separated from," she said. 

"It will hopefully free up some more spots in the managed isolation and quarantine facilities to allow people to come back and get families reunited. I just wonder why it's taken so long."

The bubble will open up quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand, but each country will retain the right to halt it. New South Wales and Victoria already allow quarantine-free travel for Kiwis, but it's not currently reciprocated. 

The idea of a travel bubble with Australia has been floated for almost a year now. But attempts have been quashed by breakouts on both sides of the ditch, and the Australian Federal Government opting for a new approach. 

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 it's understood Australia became more favourable towards each country having the right to suspend travel as they see fit. 

National leader Judith Collins speaking to media in Parliament.
National leader Judith Collins speaking to media in Parliament. Photo credit: Newshub

"The Government's told us on a number of occasions they've been working with the states in Australia to work out all the details, yet our own investigations indicate those discussions didn't start until mid-February this year," Collins said. 

"So actually, when the Federal Government was very clear from October that Kiwis could travel to Australia without quarantine, it looks to me like the Government's been sitting on its hands and hoping it would all go away."

Collins hopes the travel bubble will mean more space in managed isolation and quarantine, despite epidemiologists warning it could increase the risk of an outbreak in New Zealand with the arrival of more travellers from high-risk countries. 

"I think one of the problems for the Government and the managed isolation quarantine facilities is that they clearly don't have a lot of confidence in them otherwise they wouldn't be bringing up this issue about people coming from countries with more COVID."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters she was looking forward to getting the travel bubble underway. 

"I'm a Kiwi like everyone else. I have family and I have friends in distressing situations because we have had this border in place," she said. 

"But equally, I know those family and friends understand that the reason we have prioritised operating the way we have is precisely to get us in the position we're in now. 

"Our public health approach has meant we're now able to take this next step, and it is a world-first. I don't know of any other countries in the world who are maintaining an elimination strategy and opening up with another country, so it is a remarkable thing."

You can watch the Prime Minister's 4pm announcement on Three and