New Zealand travel bubble: 'Flyer beware', a holiday in NZ still risky

A once welcoming nation responsible for one of the world's most well-known tourism slogans - "100 per cent Pure New Zealand" - has unveiled its latest, COVID-era manifestation. But "Flyer Beware", as coined by Kiwi Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, comes as quite a downer.

In a somewhat deflating, though perhaps realistic, speech to confirm the much anticipated inflation of a quarantine-free trans-Tasman bubble from 9.59pm (AEST) on Sunday, April 18, Ardern outlined a litany of reasons for Australians not to take a holiday across the ditch.

Then again, for a country renowned for high-adrenalin travel, a holiday to New Zealand is still shaping up as quite the adventure destination, should a sudden and draconian lockdown be ordered while Australians are in the land of the Long White Cloud.

Based on Ardern's own daunting warnings, it may pay for Australians to avoid flying into Auckland, the New Zealand hub most prone to outbreaks due to the high proportion of quarantined travellers in hotels there.

For becoming stranded in a foreign country, even one as un-foreign as New Zealand, is a different proposition to being stuck in an Australian state or territory.

If Australians do choose to go, they may care to arrange a sizeable limit on their credit cards to cover unexpected accommodation costs as travel insurance does not cover COVID-19 outbreaks. And will any burst bubble mean the end of the travel arrangement until further notice or will leaders have the courage to continue it?

Despite these hitches, let's not underestimate Australians' willingness, determination and enthusiasm to travel during the pandemic, as evidenced by the thousands who ignored premiers' warnings not to holiday in Queensland over Easter.

The full bubble announcement does represent one of the more momentous decisions made post-war between close neighbours as well as a litmus test for the world on how to resume cross-border travel devoid of herd immunity.

Certainly, the world will be watching how Australia and New Zealand bank part of their dividend for their sound management of the virus.


Ardern's announcement also illustrates the complexity of launching a bubble in a pandemic and, if it succeeds, it will represent the first major travel bridge to do so. Many other attempts have failed, including one between Singapore and Hong Kong which ended before it began when the latter suffered a major COVID-19 outbreak.

Of course, on a lighter note, the trans-Tasman bubble could have been a whole lot easier if New Zealand had not declined the opportunity to join Australia in a federation 100 or so years ago, preferring to be a nation its own right.

Kiwis confounded by our federated system may feel some relief at that decision now, as they have watched a full year of rapid-fire state openings and closures from their side of the Tasman.

After all, the complex nature of the un-united Australian states and their divergent COVID-19 border policies have been largely to blame for the Australia-New Zealand bubble taking a full year to finally come to fruition.

See also: Bubble list: 10 new highlights of NZ that have opened since COVID-19

See also: Overseas travel won't happen unless Australians demand it