6 May 2020

Barr to lobby for direct trans-Tasman Canberra flights as restrictions begin to ease

| Dominic Giannini
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Trans-Tasman travel

Chief Minister Andrew Barr says he will discuss initiating direct flights between Canberra and New Zealand, but stressed that any trans-Tasman travel was still some months away. Photo: File.

As talk heats up about a trans-Tasman safe travel zone, Chief Minister Andrew Barr has flagged his intention to continue lobbying airlines to establish a direct route between Canberra and New Zealand.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was invited to Tuesday’s (5 May) National Cabinet meeting and spoke about the prospect of setting up a ‘trans-Tasman bubble’ between the two countries. Both continue to suppress the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve.

Domestic, and trans-Tasman travel is still some time away from becoming a reality as physical distancing measures remain in place and five Australian states or territories have closed borders. But Mr Barr says he will be engaging in discussions with Qantas and Air New Zealand to prepare for restrictions easing over the coming months.

“The current health crisis has caused unprecedented disruption to aviation across the globe, but the prospect of a Tasman bubble with travel permitted between Australia and New Zealand presents a great opportunity to again prosecute the case of connecting Canberra to Wellington and Auckland,” the Chief Minister told Region Media.

“We have been working hard to reconnect Canberra to New Zealand ever since Singapore Airlines took the Wellington leg off their Singapore flight. I was due to meet officials at Air New Zealand in Auckland in late March to continue lobbying for direct flights, however that trade mission was cancelled due to COVID-19.

“I will be discussing opportunities with Qantas and Air New Zealand, and the respective airports, in the coming months.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison reiterated Mr Barr’s comments that any measures would still be some months away.

“The [NZ] Prime Minister and I have, for several weeks, been talking about a safe travel zone between Australia and New Zealand,” Mr Morrison said.

“It is still some time away. It is important to flag it because it is part of the road back, at some point both Australia and New Zealand will connect with the rest of the world again… the most obvious place for that to start is between the two countries.”

Both Prime Ministers released a statement saying that an arrangement would only be put in place when “it is safe to do so and necessary health, transport and other protocols had been developed and met, to ensure the protection of public health”.

“This arrangement recognises that Australia and New Zealand are both successfully addressing the spread of COVID-19. Any arrangement would need to take into account state and territory movement restrictions,” the statement said.

“A trans-Tasman COVID-safe travel zone would be mutually beneficial, assisting our trade and economic recovery, helping kick-start the tourism and transport sectors, enhancing sporting contacts, and reuniting families and friends.”

However, both countries would need to exercise caution with measures that could encourage travel if a second wave of infection occurs.

“Neither country wants to see the virus rebound so it is essential any such travel zone is safe. Relaxing travel restrictions at an appropriate time will clearly benefit both countries and demonstrates why getting on top of the virus early is the best strategy for economic recovery,” the statement added.

Lockdown restrictions in the territory were recently eased as the ACT remains the only jurisdiction with no known infectious cases.

Further easing is on the National Cabinet’s agenda this week. Both the Chief Minister and Prime Minister have said that the path out of lockdown will be staged and gradual, but it’s widely expected that restrictions will be eased further after the National Cabinet meeting this Friday.

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HeyangThomas12:12 pm 16 May 20

That’s an amazing idea. I fly Canberra to Christchurch return for 5 times in the last year. This would be an amazing direct route.

Capital Retro4:55 pm 08 May 20

Didn’t Virgin fly to and from NZ? I don’t think it was economically viable for them.

If there are flights to New Zealand, let’s hope it is better than that disastrous sister city arrangement with Wellington a while back. The flights should go to and from Auckland which is the biggest city close to tourist attractions such as Rotorua, Waitomo and Lake Taupo. Wellington is a dead loss. Cold, dark and ugly. As soon as we drove into it in December 1987 on our last day in country my father hated it and drove us straight to the airport where we spent four hours until our flight to Sydney left.

I’m sure Wellington looks exactly the same as it did in 1987 too…

Wellington is the nicest city on the north island. Wonderful, lively place full of cafes and artwork. Auckland is dreary in comparison, and rather disappointing actually, at least after having been to Wellington. Plus Auckland’s bad traffic is legendary, and lives up to the legend. My guess, neither of you have been to Wellington since “1987”. I have no idea what it looked like in 1987; but I know what it looks like now, and it’s a lively, very interesting, fun city to visit. Extremely walkable and flat for the areas most tourists are interested in. Auckland is much less walkable. Most of Wellington is anything but flat, but the CBD area near the waterfront is.
After several visits to NZ I still hadn’t visited Wellington, because I had some warped, wrong idea it would be a ‘cold’, boring city full of glass skyscrapers, but after visiting so many other places over the years, I finally decided I really should take a look at Wellington. My wrong prejudices were soon shaken and disappeared, as I spent an extremely enjoyable couple of days wandering about exploring the city.
So, as a child, likely in the back seat of a car, you drove in, in the “dark”, and decided that showed you the city, and then your father drove straight to the airport, and your opinion was formed by that ?! Comparable to those who came to Canberra on a school excursion in the 1970/80s and haven’t been back since, but ‘know’ it’s a boring city today and not worth visiting again.

Capital Retro10:08 am 07 May 20

Mr Barr’s intentions to lobby airlines are good but I think soon, there will be no airlines left in business by the time it is expected that safe travel will come on line again.

Even if there are surviving airlines prepared to fly internationally few people will be able to afford it as the “volume driven cheap travel model” days are gone forever.

Also, I believe there has been a huge change in people’s mindsets about travel and the risks involved. The lockdown experience forcing people back to traditional family values has yielded experiences that travel can never match.

There will be a short term effect of this, but long term things will continue on the previous trend in terms of people wanting to explore the world and see it.

I’m also not convinced ‘volume driven cheap travel model’ is just going to disappear. There are certainly going to be some wipeouts to come, and short-medium term pain, but the business model has been demonstrated to work, and I’m pretty sure for a lot of [people ‘traditional family values’ are completely separate from experiences of travel. They are not mutually exclusive.

“forcing people back to traditional family values”
Can you explain that please, as I don’t understand what you are saying.

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