November 25, 2021 | By Bronwen Largier

New Zealand’s Minister for COVID-19 Response Chris Hipkins has announced the first three phases of a plan to allow more travellers to enter New Zealand but an ongoing seven-day home isolation requirement means the plan is unlikely to yield business event travel.

From 11:59pm on January 16, fully vaccinated New Zealand citizens and residence-class visa holders in Australia will be able to travel to New Zealand without going into managed isolation in a hotel but will be required to undertake seven days of home isolation. A series of tests, including pre-departure, will be required.

From 11:59pm on February 13, entry into New Zealand will be extended to fully vaccinated New Zealanders and residence-class visa holders from all other countries, except for those designated very high risk. From early December onwards, only Papua New Guinea will remain on that list, with Brazil, Fiji, India, Indonesia and Pakistan all set to be removed.

From April 30, entry will be widened to all fully vaccinated foreign nationals.

However, Hipkins did suggest that Australians may be able to travel to their nearest neighbours sooner than the timeframe outlined.

“The April timetable does not preclude moving earlier with specific groups if it is safer to do that and there may be opportunities to do that so I wouldn’t rule things out with Australia.”

The reciprocal quarantine-free travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand has been suspended on the New Zealand side since late July, due to COVID-19 outbreaks in Australia.

“The border continues to be one of our biggest risk areas for new cases,” said Hipkins

“Closing our border was one of the first steps we took to keep our country safe from COVID-19 and it will be one of the last things we do in terms of opening up.

“We do know that the international restrictions that we have had around our border have been tough for many people that’s why we’re making this announcement today, to give families, businesses, visitors, airlines, airports and others the time to prepare.”

Hipkins warned that even as the country progressively opened its border, people should not expect travel to be what it was pre-pandemic.

“As we move into 2022, we know that the pandemic is not over and it’s not going to suddenly end. We only need to look at Europe to see that the path out of the global pandemic is not a straightforward one.

“Today’s announcement does not mean that MIQ as a system is going to end any time soon.

Hipkins said the seven-day home isolation requirement would remain in place as long as the health advice recommended it.

“We will eventually reach a point – at some point – where people will be able to move much more freely across the border and those periods of self-isolation won’t be required. We’re certainly not at that point yet.”