Christopher Luxon calls for full border reopening, scrapping of pre-departure tests ahead of expected Government announcement

Christopher Luxon says the Government should fully reopen the border as soon as possible to help New Zealand's tourism industry. 

The Government is expected to make an announcement about the country's immigration settings on Wednesday, with speculation it will include the unveiling of a new border reopening date.

Under the current settings, the border will open to Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) holders from July before fully opening in October. 

However, the Government is expected to bring the October timeframe forward. 

It's an idea National supports, with Luxon telling AM's Melissa Chan-Green tourists and workers are needed urgently. 

"I think it makes great sense to pull forward the non-visa waiver countries into a much shorter timeframe. 

"The other thing that would be great to see would be the removal of the pre-departure tests. I think it would make the tourism experience much more frictionless and easier to deal with," the leader of the Opposition said on Wednesday. 

But Luxon said there's also concern over whether New Zealand is ready to accommodate an influx in tourists if the border opens. He said hospitality businesses around the country are desperate for essential staff. 

"Having spent a bit of time in Rotorua and Queenstown over the past couple of weeks I think the wait staff, the housekeeping staff, all those backpackers that we used to have working in the sector are really important because if you don't have them here then actually our quality of service… could diminish," he warned. 

Luxon also raised concerns about Immigration New Zealand's ability to process visas in a timely fashion. 

"The combination of opening up the border coupled with all the backlog from the vias that we need for critical and essential workers is a bit challenging but the bottom line for me is that we need them here as fast as we can."

Immigration New Zealand has been heavily criticised for its processing times during the pandemic. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is expected to make today's announcement at a business lunch in Auckland. 

She will be joined by  Minister of Immigration Kris Faafoi and COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins.