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New Zealand may not reopen to Australian visitors until April 2022

Yesterday, the New Zealand government announced that fully vaccinated Kiwis in Australia will be able to return and skip quarantine from January 17, 2022. However, the devastating news that came with it for tourism was that non-Kiwis including Australian residents may not be allowed to visit until April 30, 2022.

Yesterday, the New Zealand government announced that fully vaccinated Kiwis in Australia will be able to return and skip quarantine from January 17, 2022. However, the devastating news that came with it for tourism was that non-Kiwis including Australian residents may not be allowed to visit until April 30, 2022.

The announcement means that International tourism to New Zealand (at this stage) could be kept on ice for at least five months while the nation works to live with the virus and increase the vaccination rate to its highest and safest level.

It also suggests that another entire peak international tourist season including cruise will be missed as there will be no Australian or other international tourists arriving until winter.

Even then, if the seven-day isolation rule on arrival is still in place, that would also limit potential visitors to New Zealand.

The changes also spell the end of the infamous trans-Tasman bubble, the three-month quarantine-free travel exemption between COVID-free regions of Australia and New Zealand between April and July this year.

“The bubble doesn’t exist anymore,” New Zealand COVID-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said.

“The bubble was a construct that was established when there was no COVID-19 in New Zealand or Australia. And that is no longer the case on either side of the Tasman.”

However, there remains some hope the April 30 date could be brought forward based on public health advice, while Mr Hipkins also signalled a “bespoke” arrangement could be created to help international students.

Mr Hipkins said vaccination rates meant “the time is right to carefully start the reopening of our borders” in a “progressive and safe way”.

“It’s very encouraging that as a country, we are now in a position to move towards greater normality,” he said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she resisted a push to open the border to overseas-based Kiwis this year to enable New Zealanders to “have the Christmas they deserve”.

“We need to make sure we move cautiously,” she said.

The changes are the most significant since the government closed its borders in March 2020 and call time on New Zealand’s much-loathed quarantine regime, known as “MIQ”.

All New Zealand entrants must win a place in MIQ through a ballot, with limited exemptions for compassionate or economic reasons.

Arrivals must then pay to spend a week in a quarantine hotel before self-isolating for a further three days.

Karry On - Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand was forced to cancel 1000 flights this week to the end of 2021 due to border uncertainty

The decision to delay the reopening to January will see many trans-Tasman families kept apart over Christmas.

Mr Hipkins acknowledged the suffering but said the system was crucial in minimising the impact of coronavirus in New Zealand.

“When it comes to COVID-19, there are often no easy decisions,” he said.  

“We’ve often been faced with the task of making the least worst decision … the border is clearly an example of that.”

The government says further details on self-isolation will be released next month, but travellers will still be subject to a range of conditions.

They must have a negative pre-departure PCR test within 72-hours of travel, proof of vaccination, complete a travel declaration, take a test on arrival, have a suitable self-isolation venue and undergo another test before entering the community.