Queenstown Lakes mayor Jim Boult wants to know why fully vaccinated Australians can’t travel there once Aucklanders can. Photo / 123RF
A South Island mayor wants the transtasman bubble re-inflated, saying Aucklanders pose a similar Covid-19 risk to Australian travellers.
From December 15, fully vaccinated people will be able to travel across the Auckland border freely while those unvaccinated will need a negative Covid-19 test.
New Zealanders can skip across the ditch quarantine free, but they are faced with fighting for a highly sought-after spot in managed isolation on the way back home.
Queenstown Lakes mayor Jim Boult said businesses were delighted – and ready – to roll out the welcome wagon for Aucklanders this summer.
They typically accounted for 60 per cent of the town’s domestic market.
But Boult said the district had some extra room he would like Australians to fill.
“We really are surviving on crumbs at the present point in time. That said, we’re delighted to have crumbs out of the rest of the South Island and North Island who are allowed to travel.
“But having the Australians here and having our friends from Auckland here would make a massive difference to the businesses in this town who are really struggling.”
He wanted to know why fully vaccinated Australians were not allowed back in as well.
“I don’t see a lot of difference between somebody coming out of Sydney and somebody coming out of Auckland.
“Covid is rife in both cities. It’s going to be a long time until they get rid of it.
“If a Sydneysider is vaccinated and has a very recent Covid negative test, then I can’t see too much reason why they can’t come here.”
The opening of the transtasman bubble back in April was described as a light at the end of a very grim tunnel but it was popped in late July.
Months on, and starved of Aucklanders and international visitors, Boult said it was time to welcome them back.
“Perhaps coming out of Australia, maybe a compulsory saliva test at the airport would be a really good thing because you get the results back from those very quickly and they’re pretty accurate.”
Rotorua Canopy Tours general manager Paul Button said Jim Boult had a fair point if it could be done safely.
“If we can do it safely by getting Auckland into the rest of the nation and we’ve got the traffic light system to control areas and to keep people healthy and keep areas healthy, and Australia can abide by the same rules.
“If we can maintain that and be consistent and deliver it safely, what would be holding us back?”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern offered no further certainty about when the transtasman bubble might be on the cards.
“We’ve said that from the very beginning of our reconnecting work that there will be an emphasis on supporting the ability of New Zealanders and residents to move,” she said.
“The idea or the issue of when people who are coming into New Zealand as tourists, that is not our first tranche. We are really focusing on citizens and residents.”
So far, the Government said it was not looking at international border changes this side of Christmas.