Cook Islands bubble should only be the start

The Government should be much further down the road towards reconnecting New Zealand with the Pacific Islands than it currently is, Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins says.

“I’m pleased the Cook Islands travel bubble finally has a start date, but the time it took to figure out quarantine-free travel between two Pacific nations with no Covid-19 in their communities is staggering.

“While this is a positive step towards reconnecting New Zealand with our Pacific neighbours, it is only a small step. The Government could, and should, be doing a lot more.

“Several other Pacific islands, including Tonga and Samoa, have no trace of the virus in their communities, and the Government should be working towards granting these Covid-free islands quarantine-free entry into New Zealand.”

These safe-zone arrangements would only evolve into two-way travel bubbles when the Pacific nations were comfortable accepting travellers from New Zealand, Ms Collins says.

“More than 400,000 New Zealanders have roots in the Pacific, and many people in our Pacific communities have loved ones they haven’t seen in more than a year now.”

This would also help solve the massive labour-force shortfall our fruit and vegetable growers are wrestling with, which the Government still hasn’t bent its head around, Ms Collins says.

“A big benefit of the trans-Tasman bubble was all the MIQ space that could be used to bring in seasonal workers to fill the jobs Kiwis won’t do. But the Government clearly doesn’t understand this judging by the more than 1700 MIQ rooms that are currently sitting empty.

“Jacinda Ardern can’t afford to put her feet up. She needs to lay out a roadmap for reconnecting our economy and our people to the Pacific, and get on with it.”