Duncan Garner: New Zealand needs trans-Tasman bubble

Opinion 08/06/2020

OPINION: The AM Show host, Duncan Garner.

On Monday, the easy decision is made - after what will likely be 17 days of no new cases, standby - we are moving to alert level 1.

I predict it will be from the middle of the week.

But the biggest and toughest call is yet to be made: when to open our borders to the outside world.

We were COVID-free until it came in through the airport. As soon as we closed the border, we suffocated the virus. It was the right decision, but we can't stay fortress-New-Zealand forever.

With our borders closed, our tourism businesses are struggling, dying or already dead. And as much as we want the tourists back, until a vaccine is sorted, our borders will stay shut.

Air New Zealand will be nothing more than a small provincial airline. 

This will go on for months and months, maybe more than a year.

That's our reality.

Yet the real tension comes when you try to save these jobs. We basically can't.

About 229,000 workers are facing the economic reality - tens of thousands of small mum-and-dad businesses. Cafes, restaurants, rent-a-car companies, all in dire straits.

The obvious way to save the jobs is to open the borders, but apart from the Aussies and the Pacific, we don't want anyone else because their countries are still in the midst of the pandemic.

It's all very well being first in the world to become COVID-free - congratulations. But we are so far ahead on the health front, that we have no one to play with economically.

The wage subsidy is not a plan. Yes, it was needed, but it's a stop-gap measure which conveniently gets us right up to the election.

So, put a start date on the trans-Tasman bubble - add in Taiwan, or any other country that has squashed this thing.

Every New Zealander and business has played their part.

Prime Minister, please reward them with some light at the end of their bubble.