New Zealand’s prime minister will visit Australia this week, with trade and tourism at the top of the agenda.
Her country has now eased rules for international tourists and other measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, imposing several lockdowns after a handful of cases.
Travellers with approved visas can enter the country without quarantine, but must take two rapid tests and report the results on arrival.
Jacinda Ardern wants to lure Australians to New Zealand as the country finally lifts restrictions on overseas tourists after two years of relentless Covid rules
The New Zealand leader will meet Anthony Albanese, join a number of New Zealand ministers at the Australia-New Zealand Leaders Forum and deliver a foreign policy speech at the Lowy Institute during her tenure in Australia.
“This trade mission is one of many steps this government is taking to reconnect New Zealand to the world, while actively strengthening partnerships between government, business and industry,” she said in a statement on Monday.
This is Ardern’s second visit to Australia in a year, after meeting Anthony Albanese in June and calling for Australians to visit the country.
“I have no hesitation in saying we miss you. You will be welcomed like never before because we are so happy to have people back,” she said.
“It’s ski season in New Zealand. Look, Australians make up about 71 per cent of our international skier market under normal circumstances. So Australians love to ski in New Zealand. I see why. It’s easy and accessible.
More than 30 New Zealand business leaders will meet Ms Ardern, who will also meet NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Victorian Leader Daniel Andrews.
Small Business and Tourism Minister Stuart Nash, one of several ministers accompanying the Prime Minister, said Australia was New Zealand’s largest source of tourists.
Before the pandemic, more than 1.55 million Australians crossed the Tasman Sea in 2019, contributing more than NZ$2.7 billion ($2.45 billion) to the New Zealand economy, he said.
“With our borders now open and pre-departure testing cancelled, we have created an important opportunity for tourism to recover as we welcome back our Australian friends,” he added.
With just a few cases under Ms Ardern’s Zero Covid mandate, New Zealand has been caught in several lockdowns (pictured, Auckland during lockdown last August)
Covid containment measures proposed by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
March 16, 2020: All new arrivals, including New Zealanders entering the country, are subject to mandatory self-isolation.
March 19: All non-residents or citizens are barred from entering the country under an international border ban.
March 25: A nationwide lockdown is imposed, allowing only essential services to open. At this stage, New Zealand has recorded 102 cases and 0 deaths.
8 June 2020: Ardern announces no new community transmission in the past two weeks and says New Zealand has eliminated Covid transmission.
August-September 2020: Auckland’s 1.7 million residents endured two months of lockdown measures after initially recording four new cases.
February-March 2021: Auckland goes back into lockdown as the community records three new Covid cases.
August 17: New Zealand enters level 4 lockdown again for two weeks as a new community case is recorded.
October: Create a traffic light system that prohibits unvaccinated residents from entering businesses, gyms and barbershops in “red” or “amber” alert areas.
December: The government delays plans to reopen borders in February due to the spread of Omicron variants.
December 21: The length of stay for people in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities is increased to 10 days.
January 2022: Under Covid red alert measures, public backlash against major events and sporting events is capped at 100 people.
January 18: Government postpones managed isolation and quarantine draws due to rising Covid cases.
January: Ardern announces she has called off her wedding after documenting nine new Omicron cases.
February: The government announces plans to open the country to New Zealanders and eligible Australian travellers to skip quarantine as long as they self-isolate for 10 days.
March 2: Incoming travelers who have been vaccinated are no longer required to self-isolate on arrival.
May 2: UK travellers and travellers from other visa-exempt countries can enter without self-isolation.
August 2022: The New Zealand government eases restrictions, allowing all travellers to enter, provided they have been vaccinated and taken two rapid antigen tests upon arrival.
Because of Ms Ardern’s strict zero-virus policy, New Zealand has been isolated from the rest of the world for much of the pandemic, and New Zealand’s residents have struggled to get home.
Ms Ardern visited the UK last week and touted her country as a winter sun holiday destination.
Despite fierce criticism of the restrictions by some in the country, Ms Ardern has repeatedly defended the rules, saying they save lives.
Ms Ardern, who was in talks with Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the UK, took time out to appear on ITV’s Lorraine programme as she urged British tourists to visit the country after the rules were eased so that 5 International visitors arriving after March 1 can do so without quarantining.
Ms Ardern has defended her tough stance on the pandemic, making it difficult for even her own citizens to enter New Zealand (pictured in lockdown in Auckland in April 2020)
“We’ve actually opened up and now anyone in the UK can travel. I’ll be plugged in, your winter is our summer, so make those plans,” she said.
“Although I’ve been to Scotland, I can say New Zealand has a more summery summer, just as I love a place like Scotland.
“I like to think that I can be objective, it [New Zealand] Just the most beautiful place.
“What I also love is that you can get this combination in the city and then be close to nature, beaches, amazing walks, nature tourism and now food and wine – it’s hard to have a bad meal.”
The prime minister also defended her tough Covid rules, saying they have helped save lives in her country.
“We are open and I don’t think there is a free pandemic response for everyone,” she said.
“It’s either a terrible and terrible cost to human life, or because we mostly feel the cost of people having difficulty getting around.
“You can come and go, but we are quarantined and space is limited because of the quarantine.
“It was tough for everyone, but we got through it with far fewer hospitalisations and deaths than most.”
When asked if she would have done anything different afterwards, she said: “Of course. If you look back at something and you can’t think of what you would change, then you probably haven’t tried hard enough.
‘So absolutely. But the overall strategy, no, because I know it saves lives, and I know it does.
According to the World Health Organization, New Zealand has recorded 1.3 million Covid-19 cases and 1,466 deaths since the pandemic began.
Pictured are Auckland volunteers buying groceries for those in need during lockdown when Covid first hit in April 2020