A New Zealand-Pacific travel bubble looks likely to happen soon following mounting pressure from the Cook Islands.
Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna made his plea on Māori TV’s Te Ao Tapatahi yesterday for a trans-Pacific bubble and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says he will follow up.
“We’re now talking and we have been for some time with them. I spoke to the Deputy Prime Minister, Finance Minister Mark Brown just the other day,” Peters says.
“We have agreed to progress things as quickly as we can in terms of the security of both our countries, as quickly as we can possibly.”
New Zealanders made up 67 per cent of their total visitors last year.
Earlier this week the Cook Islands Private Sector Taskforce said Aotearoa had to play its part by opening up its borders.
Tourists' return vital
“Allow the Cook Islanders to re-establish trade so we can pay our own way via trade and not via handouts later on,” taskforce chair Tangata Fletcher Melvin says.
“Otherwise, the long-term effect is that we’re going to require aid and assistance that’s going to cost New Zealand taxpayer a lot more money,” Melvin says.
For Black Pearl retailer Jackie Tuara (Ngāti Porou ki Harataunga, Te Au o Tonga, Takitimu Vaka, Mangaia) the return of tourists is vital.
“About 90 per cent of our clientele are walk-in tourists, so it is important for us to get those borders going, to get tourists coming back,” Tuara says.
Yesterday Air NZ fares became available online from June 20 June, to coincide with Puna’s announcement that Cook Islanders or work permit residents, who met conditions, could return home from New Zealand from June 19.
The Air NZ plane has the capacity to seat 300 people and airport staff are preparing for a fullflight.
On arrival, they will not undergo 14 days of supervised quarantine.