Trans-Tasman bubble: Australia may open up to New Zealand state by state after Queensland refusal

New Zealanders could soon be flying to Melbourne or Sydney - but trips to the Sunshine Coast will still be off-limits as a trans-Tasman travel bubble moves closer to reality.

The Australian Government is pushing ahead with the arrangement to open up its borders to New Zealand, despite Queensland's insistence on keeping its strict COVID-19 border controls in place.

As it stands, Queensland allows travel for freight and business purposes, but has closed its borders to all other forms of travel - a policy that has thrown plans for the much-anticipated trans-Tasman bubble into question.

But now Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham says Australia will move forward with the scheme "as soon as it's safe" - and will do so without Queensland if required.

"New Zealand is obviously the first, and right now only, international market that we could safely agree to open up to," Birmingham told The Sydney Morning Herald.

"If New Zealand and some Australian states are ready and willing to progress, then the reluctance of other states to open up their domestic borders shouldn't become an obstacle to progress.

"The recovery of jobs and small businesses in some states shouldn't be held back by the decisions of other state governments."

If implemented, the trans-Tasman bubble 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 New Zealand and Australian Prime Ministers Jacinda Ardern and Scott Morrison, and is seen by both as an effective strategy to boost tourism and the wider economy amid the COVID-19 crisis.

However on Monday, Ardern told RNZ's Morning Report that she's hesitant on putting a timeline on a trans-Tasman bubble due to Australia's internal borders.

"We'd expect to see some of those issues resolved before we would see them necessarily opening up to New Zealand," she said. "People want to travel internally across Australia before they expect necessarily to come across the ditch."

Last week, the Prime Minister revealed Kiwis may not have to wait until alert level 1 to travel to and from Australia, as many assumed.

"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," she said.

"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 was encouraging news for Kiwis - particularly 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.