Coronavirus: Trans-Tasman bubble 'vitally important' to saving hospitality, tourism jobs - Queenstown Mayor

Hopes are high that a trans-Tasman bubble might be able to save jobs in the hospitality and tourism industries.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern met on Tuesday with her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison to discuss whether a COVID-19 "safe-travel zone" could be created.

The bubble would allow for Kiwis and Australians to travel between the two countries without having to quarantine for two weeks.

In a statement, the two leaders said they had agreed to start work on the bubble, and that it would be put in place when the necessary health and transport protocols have been developed and safe travel could be guaranteed.

Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult says he is hoping the safe zone comes sooner rather than later, with many areas around the country desperate for Australian tourists.

"It will make the difference between businesses going bankrupt or staying in business or people losing their jobs or keeping their jobs - it's vitally important to us," Boult told Newshub.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters on Tuesday said for the idea to be successful it was necessary for both countries to be seen as one.

"We've got to see the Australasian population as one," he said. "Think one ANZAC population... Treat ourselves as one population and it's a possibility."

Ardern said it was important to be "cautious" so that the progress both countries had made fighting the virus to date was not undone.

"Relaxing travel restrictions at an appropriate time will clearly benefit both countries and demonstrates why getting on top of the virus early is the best strategy for economic recovery," she said, likening the relationship between New Zealand as Australia to one of "family".

Boult said he was optimistic the bubble would happen, but it was imperative the two governments acted as quickly as possible.

"I'm pleased to see particularly the word committed in the statement between the two Prime Ministers. That means that this is going to happen, it's simply a matter of when.

"If it doesn't happen relatively in a short period of time business will go bankrupt and that means more people will lose their jobs. We already have between 8000 and 10,000 unemployed in the district now."

Queenstown, along with other centres whose economies are highly dependent on tourism, has been hit particularly hard by the fallout of the pandemic. 

The district's economy is predicted to shrink by 40 percent and unemployment is likely to reach 25 to 30 percent.

Across the country some experts have predicted as many as 100,000 jobs in the tourism industry could be lost in the coming months.

Businesses in the district now hope it might be possible to get Australian tourists in the country in time for the ski season.

"For the Queenstown area, up to 40 percent of our skiers come from Australia - so for our businesses it's a significant impact not being able to have trans-Tasman visitors," Paul Anderson, chief executive of NZSki, told Newshub.

"Australian visitors obviously fly in here, they stay in hotels and eat in hospitality outlets in town so it's really important for the economic wellbeing of our community."