Auckland border drops on December 15, $1000 fines for non-vaccinated travellers without negative COVID-19 tests

The Auckland border will drop on December 15 and travellers will have to be either fully vaccinated or have proof of a negative test within 72 hours of departure - or else face a $1000 fine. 

The boundary is two ways. Auckland can start receiving New Zealanders from all over the country from December 15, allowing families and friends to reconnect and business to receive a much needed boost before Christmas. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed on Wednesday that the vaccination or testing requirement will be in place until January 17. But it remains to be seen what happens after that date and whether vaccine certificates will be ditched.

"Police will have operational discretion on the enforcement of these rules. Police undertake random spot checks to enforce a range of laws on our roads, such as drink driving, and will take the same approach here," Ardern said.

"On the northern boundary, and the gateway to Northland, police will work with iwi to ensure people can move, but also that the people of Northland have confidence in the checks that are in place.

"We have given special consideration to the South Island. The combination of the vaccine or testing requirement for Air New Zealand combined with the ability for the Inter-Islander to operate the same regime will provide solid measures to slow any spread to the south."

Ardern also confirmed that all of New Zealand will move into the new COVID Protection Framework, of 'traffic light' system, on the same date. 

The new framework was set to come into force for Auckland once 90 percent of the eligible population was fully vaccinated, while the rest of the country had to wait until each district health board (DHB) reached 90 percent. 

However, Ardern said on Monday she strongly supported an early move into the new framework, after she was advised it "provides greater protection" than the alert levels and provides an incentive to get vaccinated. 

That's because under the traffic light system, freedoms will be determined by vaccine certificates. For example, when Auckland enters the 'red' light, hospitality venues can open with up to 100 fully vaccinated people, but businesses that choose not to use certificates must remain contactless. 

"What we also have to factor in, is if we are seeing the beginning of cases outside of Auckland, what gives us the greatest protection in that environment? And it's clear that the Protection Framework does that," Ardern said. 

Alert level 2, she explained, allows vaccinated and unvaccinated people to attend an event at a venue with no gathering restrictions. But under the 'orange' traffic light, this will only apply to events using vaccination certificates. 

With vaccine certificates ready to go, the new COVID Protection Framework can come into effect, once Cabinet decides to implement it. Cabinet will make the decision on November 29. 

"Cabinet will confirm on November 29 its decision to move Auckland into the new traffic light system which we expect will occur soon after the 29th. Auckland will initially move into 'red', the highest level in the traffic light," Ardern said.

"We are also confirming today that the rest of the country will move into the framework at the same time as Auckland. Those parts of the country with lower vaccination rates will move into the new system at 'red', which has greater protections than the current alert level 2, meaning there will be stronger measures to minimise the risk of spread."

Ardern said on November 29, when the Government is expected to announce the shift to the traffic light framework, regions will find out what level they will start at - green, orange or red. It will depend on case numbers and vaccinations.

Ardern confirmed no region will start at green.