Monday, 6 July 2020

Cook Islands failure shows how much smarter we need to get

“New Zealand and the Cook Islands are missing out due to having the world’s dumbest borders,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“The next government is going to have to get smart. Living resiliently in a post-COVID world will require a lot more sophistication than simply saying ‘it’s too hard, we can’t even separate passengers getting off one plane from passengers on another.’

This morning, the Prime Minister explained why the Government hadn’t managed to establish a travel bubble with the Cooks Islands, saying she hadn’t spoken to PM Puna in two weeks and our airports can’t yet sort passengers from safe and unsafe countries.

“Calling the Cooks and being able to separate travellers coming from different parts of the world are among the most straightforward tasks. If they are beyond the Government, what can it do?

“We are going to live in a post-COVID world where the virus exists and we have to get on with running an economy. Doing that safely will require smarter approaches than simply sealing the border and telling everyone to go home for five weeks. Separating high-risk and low-risk passengers at the airport is one of the more simple tasks the next government will have to take on.

“The Prime Minister has often spoken about having the world’s most intelligent borders, but the Government can’t point to a single, concrete step it has taken in this direction.

“New Zealand got lucky with Covid-19 because we are surrounded by a natural moat. But in order to reconnect with the world we have to be smart by being the best in the world at testing, contact tracing, and using innovative technology at the border.

“The Cook Islands are desperate for tourism and New Zealanders would like to travel. The Cooks are Covid-free and there is no community transmission in New Zealand. A travel bubble is a simple win-win proposition. There should be no hold up.

“It could happen tomorrow. The Government could make the trip a domestic flight.

“If the Government can’t establish a travel bubble with a territory that is essentially a Covid-free part of New Zealand, what exactly can it accomplish?

“New Zealanders understand there are complications with a trans-Tasman bubble and that it will be difficult to open the border to other parts of the world.

“But opening the border with the Cook Islands should be straightforward.

“Kiwis will be asking serious questions about the Government’s competence if it can’t do something as simple as establishing a travel bubble with a Covid-free part of New Zealand.”