New Zealand's quarantine-free travel bubble with Victoria will be paused for another six days, the COVID-19 Response Minister has announced.
In a statement on Thursday, Chris Hipkins said plans are underway to get Kiwis in Melbourne back on our shores with a "carefully managed commencement of return green flights".
It comes as Melbourne prepares to enter a second week of lockdown amid a community coronavirus cluster in Victoria that's now ballooned to 63 cases.
Hipkins says New Zealand's health officials have assessed the current risk as 'medium' for Melbourne, but decreasing for the greater Melbourne area.
"Following the Victorian government's decision to extend their lockdown restrictions, New Zealand's quarantine-free travel pause with Victoria will also be extended for a further six days, with a further review due on Wednesday, June 9," he said.
"I acknowledge this extension will cause further inconvenience to those who have already had their travel plans disrupted. I also acknowledge that having been prevented from returning for almost two weeks, New Zealanders will be wanting some certainty around when they can start to plan to come home.
"The Government has announced plans for the carefully managed commencement of return 'green flights' from Melbourne to New Zealand, from Tuesday, June 8 at 11:59pm."
Hipkins says travel on these flights will be limited to Kiwi residents and citizens, people with humanitarian exemptions, and critical workers stranded in Victoria.
He says potential issues over how seats will be allocated if demand exceeds supply will be ironed out in the coming days, with details to be posted on the COVID-19 website.
"New Zealand health officials have conducted an assessment of the public health risk and have determined that by June 9, the risk to public health of people returning from Melbourne will be low," he said.
"The commencement of flights recognises that by then, people currently in Victoria will have completed 14 days in lockdown. This reflects the equivalent time which might have been spent in managed isolation in New Zealand."
Those on flights from Melbourne to Aotearoa will need to have returned a negative pre-departure test less than 72 hours prior to boarding. They will also be required to complete their Nau Mai Rā contact information and health declaration to confirm they haven't visited any locations of interest connected to the outbreak.