New Zealanders could be travelling to and from Australia as early as alert level 2, the Prime Minister has revealed, as the trans-Tasman bubble concept edges closer to reality.
If implemented, the arrangement would see Australia and New Zealand open their international borders exclusively to one another, following successful efforts from both nations to curb the spread of coronavirus.
The idea has garnered favourable responses from Jacinda Ardern and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and is seen as an effective strategy to boost tourism and the wider economy in both countries amid the challenging economic impacts of COVID-19.
In a press briefing from the Beehive on Wednesday, Jacinda Ardern told media that while "tight measures" at the border would remain across all alert levels, that doesn't rule out international travel at level 2.
"Through every level we will maintain our underlying wall of defence against the virus. That includes … tight measures at the border," she said.
"While our border measures carry on regardless of what level we're at, let me be clear that amendments to the border rules can occur at any level also.
"So it is possible to have a trans-Tasman bubble, for instance, at level 2 - it is not contingent on us being at level 1 for that."
The comment will be encouraging for those working in New Zealand's $34 billion tourism industry, which has been battered by lockdown, travel restrictions and border closures during the coronavirus crisis.
Auckland Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood, who is helping spearhead an effort to reopen our borders as soon as it's safe, told Newshub Nation the countries have an opportunity to set "standards for travel restarting around the world".
Margy Osmond, Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum Tourism co-chair, says a plan for how a trans-Tasman bubble would work could be ready in the next few weeks.
Osmond's hoping for a working strategy by the start of next month.
"The plan with this is, although we know that it would take governments longer than that to make a decision about opening the borders, we need to be able show them the industry is ready," she said.