New Zealand, Australia to set up expert group to investigate simplified trans-Tasman travel

New Zealand and Australia will establish an expert group to investigate making travel across the Tasman more seamless.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese held a bilateral meeting in Wellington on Wednesday. The pair will later head down to the FIFA fan zone to celebrate the Women's World Cup.

They've just fronted a press conference and announced there will be a group set up to consider how to make the journey between the two countries less onerous.

"We agreed to put together a joint Australia-New Zealand expert group, with a clear deadline of 12 months, to scope initiatives to move closer towards seamless travel across the Tasman," Prime Minister Hipkins said. 

"We agreed it's worthwhile to re-engage on a process to find workable measures that would help trans-Tasman businesses and tourism with a simplified border.

"But it's not straightforward. Our border is a big part of what keeps us safe. It's where we manage major biosecurity, people, health and security risks.

"This process will bring the experts together to talk about whether there are ways in which we reduce barriers at the border, while not compromising our security."

The group will report back by the end of June next year. 

The idea was raised this month by Australia's Tourism and Transport Forum.

Its chief executive officer Margy Osmond said the countries should trial new entry and screening technology - including digital arrival cards and facial recognition.

"I think there's a need for real simplicity on the trans-Tasman route," she said.

"What we're talking about is making the process of travel as seamless and simple as possible. We're calling for a group, business and government, in the next month and then to sort it out by the end of the year."

Hipkins said the two leaders also discussed further elements of bilateral cooperation, cooperation in the Pacific, indigenous collaboration, an update to defence relations, and economic initiatives 

"Other areas of discussion included the threat of climate change to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the people of the Pacific; and the importance of working deliberately with our Pacific partners to support prosperity, peace and resilience in our region.

"Further afield, we reiterated our commitment to multilateralism and the international rules-based system and reaffirmed our condemnation of Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine."

He said it was great to meet again with Albanese.

"It's the fifth time we've met in seven months, highlighting the special bond between our countries. While I believe our relationship is as strong as it's ever been, I know we can keep building on those ties by modernising our agreements and continuing to cooperate in our mutual best interest. "

What was discussed?

  • A bilateral roadmap, which sets out our shared ambition for cooperation over the next decade and outlines how we will work together over the coming decade across five pillars that offer the greatest potential for achieving our shared vision: sustainable, inclusive and prosperous economies; security and resilience; active partners in the Pacific; upholding shared principles and values; and our peoples,

  • Our deep cooperation in the Pacific and our commitment to partnering with Pacific Island countries to advance the region's priorities,

  • A commitment to refresh the Australia-Aotearoa-New Zealand Indigenous Collaboration Arrangement (ICA),

  • The update of Closer Defence Relations (CDR) to ensure it is fit for purpose, drives interoperability and enables us to respond as allies in a deteriorating strategic environment, and

  • A range of economic integration initiatives under the Single Economic Market, including:

    the negotiation of the Australia-New Zealand Sustainable and Inclusive Trade Declaration, ensuring that CER reflects modern aspirations on climate, inclusivity and resilience,

    the delivery of SouthPAN early Open Services to improve and accuracy and reliability of satellite based-navigation systems;

    agreement to work towards updating our Double Taxation Agreement, and

    the upgrade of the Agreement Establishing the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA)

Albanese is in New Zealand to mark a number of milestones, including the 40th anniversary of the two countries' Closer Economic Relations (CER), the 50th anniversary of the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement and 80 years of diplomatic representation. 

"I believe that the trans-Tasman relationship is the strongest it has been in decades," Hipkins said in announcing the visit last week.

"In both Australia and Prime Minister Albanese, New Zealand has a close friend and ally, so I'm very pleased to host him here during this year of milestone anniversaries."

The Australian Prime Minister will be in Wellington until Thursday.