Travel Bubble

April 23, 2021
Myer Lipschitz

Property bubbles, equity bubbles, general asset bubbles and now a Trans Tasman travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand. It feels a bit like I’m in a bubble bath.

Earlier this week both countries agreed to form a travel “bubble” and this exciting news heralds just one more step towards normalisation of travel arrangements.

From October of last year, New Zealand citizens could visit Australia without undergoing quarantine arrangements but until the recent announcement, would have to undergo 14 days of quarantine when they return to New Zealand as would Australian residents.

Now Australian citizens and residents and New Zealand citizens and residents can travel freely between the two countries provided they have spent 14 days before departure in either Australia or New Zealand. They must not be awaiting the results of Covid test nor have any covid symptoms, amongst other criteria. The same applies to temporary residents in either country who hold valid visas to enter either Australia or New Zealand.

This will present a huge boost to the New Zealand tourism and hospitality industry because statistically approximately 40% of total annual visitors to New Zealand are Australians and 1.5 million New Zealand citizens tend to visit Australia on an annual basis accounting for approximately 15% of our visitor numbers each year.

The bubble is worth NZ$2.7 billion for New Zealand and AU$2.6 billion to Australia and represents a sizeable boost to the ailing tourism and hospitality industries in both countries.

The announcement was only possible because of the manner in which Australia and New Zealand have essentially stopped community spread of coronavirus, with no community transmitted cases reported in either country. The only cases of Covid 19 are international travellers undergoing quarantine in both countries.

New Zealand and Australia are no strangers to facing adversity together with perhaps the ANZAC campaign in Gallipoli in which Australian and New Zealand troops fought side-by-side being a catalyst for nationalism in both countries and the basis of a deep relationship that forms the basis of a sense of national identity for both countries.

Prior to 1973 neither New Zealand nor Australia exercised systematic control over immigration from the main Commonwealth countries (mainly United Kingdom and Canada) and New Zealanders and Australians were free to move between each country under informal arrangements.

In 1973 the countries announced what would become known as the Trans-Tasman travel arrangement in which the citizens of both countries could travel freely between each other without needing passports.

In the early 1980s this arrangement was amended to include the need for passports to travel between the respective countries, and in the late 1980s Australian citizens and permanent residents were exempt from the requirement to hold the visa or residence permit to enter and stay in New Zealand. However, this arrangement was only reciprocated to the level that New Zealand citizens (but not permanent residents) were exempt from having to obtain a visa for Australia, and this was later amended to issue New Zealand citizens with a special category visa on arrival in Australia.

Under the trans-Tasman mutual recognition arrangement signed in 1997 both countries mutually recognise professional qualifications thereby enabling professionals to work in either country. For example, a New Zealand solicitor can gain professional registration in Australia through a relatively simple procedure of registering with the relevant State Legal Services Board and presenting a certificate of good standing from the New Zealand Law Society.

I find that not many non-New Zealand/Australian citizens appreciate the principle of mutual recognition and it is a very useful tool in any migration agents armoury of knowledge because it’s often easier to obtain professional registration for an overseas trained professional in either Australia or New Zealand but not necessarily both. Whilst professional bodies recognise mutual registration in New Zealand and Australia they often don’t adopt similar registration procedures for those who qualified in other countries.

An example of this would be South African trained physiotherapists who generally don’t have to undergo requalification or professional exams in order to obtain professional registration in New Zealand but do require exams in order to obtain registration in Australia.

We are often asked whether New Zealand or Australia has the superior education system but the fact that both countries mutually recognise each other’s qualifications means that they must regard the educational systems of each country on par.

As someone born in South Africa but lived in New Zealand for 20 years and Australia for 12, I have a perspective that New Zealand and Australian citizens perhaps don’t have. I think Australians and New Zealanders tend to highlight the differences but from the perspective of someone born elsewhere, there are more similarities than differences between both societies and cultures. They are not the same but are similar, I often like to compare them to cousins related by geography, political leanings and economy.

At a time when tensions are running high with our largest trading partner China, perhaps it’s a time to revisit countries who hold the same liberal values as Australia to forge closer trade ties. Whilst this might not necessarily result in the cheapest imported products, perhaps there are socio-economic and political considerations that might be more valuable than a fractious relationship that can be valued in dollars and cents.

I am sure that there will be much cause for celebration on both sides of the Tasman now that we are allowed to embrace our Antipodean brothers and sisters in our Trans Tasman bubble.

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