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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard

ORAL QUESTIONS

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Question No. 1—COVID-19 Response

1. DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT) to the Minister for COVID-19 Response: What advice, if any, has he received this year on the policy of varying quarantine arrangements for travellers arriving into New Zealand depending on the risks associated with their country of origin, such as has been put in place in Australia and Taiwan?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister for COVID-19 Response): I’m constantly receiving advice regarding our managed isolation and quarantine practices and policies. I’ve received regular updates on the establishment of safe travel zones, particularly focused on Australia, the Cook Islands, and Niue. I’ve not received any specific advice on a potential safe travel zone with Taiwan, who I note have very similar border restrictions and managed isolation and quarantine arrangements in place to New Zealand’s.

David Seymour: Why does our managed isolation system impose exactly the same requirements on travellers from COVID-free Pacific countries as strict requirements on travellers from COVID hotspots?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: We are in conversations with the Pacific, and more than just the countries that I’ve mentioned, about potentially having safe travel with them. Those talks are most advanced with the Cook Islands and with Niue, and we’ll continue to explore that. One of the challenges around any arrangements like that is that you have to make sure that you’re keeping safe-zone travellers completely separate from those who are coming from non – safe zones.

David Seymour: What has stopped those—quote unquote—”conversations” turning into material action over the past 10 months since the Prime Minister said on 16 April last year that New Zealand would have—quote unquote—”the world’s smartest borders”?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: With regard to the Pacific, the biggest impediment there and the biggest area of caution is the desire to ensure New Zealand does not export COVID-19 to the Pacific, because the consequences of that, as we have seen in the past, could be devastating for those Pacific nations.

David Seymour: Would the Minister rather explain that to Hawke’s Bay horticulturalists with fruit rotting on the ground or Queenstown tourism operators going broke for a lack of tourists?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I think, in regard to the latter part of the question, the member might like to consider how many of the people coming from those countries would be spending their money in Queenstown. But with regard to the first part of his question, we are absolutely aware of the pressure that those industries are under. We have made allocation for RSE workers, regional seasonal employment workers, and we’re working very hard to be able to bring them into the country to assist those industries. We’re also working—and my colleague immediately to my right is working very hard—to make sure that the domestic workforce are as fully engaged and employed in those industries as possible.

Chris Bishop: Is the Government still interested in exploring state-by-state travel bubbles with Australian states, and, if so, why has it not opened conversations with any of the individual Australian states to do so?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The Australian international border is controlled by the Federal Government, and the Federal Government have made it clear that they would not entertain a state-by-state arrangement.

David Seymour: Can the Minister tell the House, when people from states such as New South Wales, which has had no active cases for 38 days and counting—

SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member doesn’t need to add in the explanatory parts. He can say New South Wales and then go on to the next one.

David Seymour: —or Queensland, with a similar number, be able—

SPEAKER: All right, the member can start a new question now.

David Seymour: Can the Minister tell the House when his Government will allow people from states such as New South Wales and Queensland to enter New Zealand without quarantine requirements given the lack of active cases in those states?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The member clearly didn’t listen to my answer to the last question. The lack of action on a state-by-state basis is the position of the Federal Australian Government.

David Seymour: Point of order. The question was about the actions of the New Zealand Government, which controls our borders. He’s talked about the decisions of the Federal Government—that’s a completely separate matter. That’s for people going from here to there; I’m talking about people coming from there to here, which he hasn’t addressed at all.

SPEAKER: Yes, I understand exactly what the member’s saying, and people might want to make a judgment as to the quality of the answer, but it’s not my responsibility to get good-quality answers for the member.

MIL OSI