‘We missed you’: Finally, Aussies can cross the ditch

New Zealand will reopen to Australia from next month, with the Kiwi tourism minister telling Aussies, “We have missed you”.

Mar 16, 2022, updated Mar 16, 2022
New Zealand will begin taking down its hard borders after almost two years of virtual isolation to fight Covid-19. (AAP Image/Erik Anderson)

New Zealand will begin taking down its hard borders after almost two years of virtual isolation to fight Covid-19. (AAP Image/Erik Anderson)

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced vaccinated Australians can resume regular travel to New Zealand from April 13.

The country has held firm to tight border restrictions through the Covid-19 pandemic, with a largely shut borders for two years.

However, the arrival of the infectious Omicron variant – sending local cases skyrocketing – has lessened the need for a wall to keep the virus out.

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash said Wednesday’s announcement was the most exciting moment for the industry in two years.

“We are ready to roll out the green and gold carpet … we have missed you,” he said.

Currently, only Kiwis, regular residents and some critical workers are able to enter NZ without spending a week in quarantine.

That will change from 11.59pm on April 12, when vaccinated Australians can travel.

Travellers from visa waiver countries and valid visa can follow from 11.59pm on May 1.

“We have now received guidance that it is safe to significantly bring forward the next stage of border reopening work,” Ms Ardern said.

She said the border plan wouldn’t be changing, which is music to the ears of the decimated tourism industry.

Trans-Tasman businessman Quentin Nolan is one of many eager to see a reopening schedule stick.

He is the man behind Snow Machine, a Queenstown music festival bringing big name Australian acts such as The Avalanches and The Presets to NZ for a winter party on snow.

The inaugural festival was postponed last year when the trans-Tasman bubble was suspended, and then cancelled when it became clear the bubble wasn’t returning in 2021.

“It’s something we’ve been planning for a number of years … and we had to refund everyone which was pretty brutal. We did take a serious hit,” Mr Nolan said.

He is determined to plug on in 2022, bringing a popular northern hemisphere concept to NZ’s hard-hit ski town.

“It’s pretty brutal. There’s more vacant shops in Queenstown I’ve ever seen. So many businesses have gone broke in the last six months,” he said.

“People are starting to get a little bit of confidence back for this coming winter.

“An April opening would be great for confidence. To see people travelling back without an issue, that’s gonna make people feel somewhat comfortable about returning.”

Tourism Industry Aotearoa spokeswoman Ann-Marie Johnson said many left standing after the pandemic were battle-scarred after two years of intermittent and largely domestic trading.

“We are marking the second anniversary of the closure of New Zealand’s borders this week,” Ms Johnson said.

“That is 730 days of pain for small and large tourism businesses throughout the motu (country).”

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