PM Jacinda Ardern considers days off to boost tourism

While some Australian states keep their borders locked tight, across the ditch New Zealanders are being encouraged to roam far and wide, with the PM even considering adding additional public holidays to give them more incentive.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern visited Rotorua on Tuesday for recovery talks with key leaders of the country’s tourism industry.

She was asked by one journalist if giving people a week off, an extra public holiday “or something like that” was being considered by the Government given its strict, weeks-long lockdown fell over Easter and Anzac Day.

“We are, as a Government, thinking as we speak around the ideas to encourage New Zealanders to come and see their own backyard,” Ms Ardern said.

“So there’s a range of things that sit within that, and those are things we’re giving active consideration to.”

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Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief Chris Roberts told Stuff domestic tourism had two main drivers – big events and time off.

“And for now we can’t have events. We’ve plenty of evidence that long weekends lead to significant boosts in spending,” he said.

“There’s agreement we need to support domestic tourism, it’s all we have for the time being and we need to be as imaginative as possible, more than a glitzy marketing campaign.”

Ms Ardern joined Australian leaders at national cabinet earlier this month to float the idea of a “trans-Tasman travel bubble”.

NZ Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said if the two countries kept a lid on their COVID-19 case numbers, then the bubble was “a serious possibility”.

In early May, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “At some point, both Australia and New Zealand will start connecting with the rest of the world again.”

“The most obvious place for that to start is between Australia and New Zealand but that’s not something that’s about to start next week,” he said, adding it was still “some time away”.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said at a national level, they had never suggested or given any advice that internal borders within Australia should be closed but that decision is now for the state governments.

“There’s still plenty of virus circulating in the world so the external borders, they’ll remain in place for some time I would imagine,” he told ABC Radio on Monday.

“Now the border is closed I think it’s right that the Queenslanders have the say as to when they want to open their border, the same as WA, the NT, South Australia and Tasmania.”

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian previously said she “often” joked with Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk about travelling to Auckland before going to Brisbane.

But the situation has since taken a serious turn.

“I’ve been quietly having a gibe at all my state colleagues who have their borders shut,” she told Sky News on Sunday morning.

“NSW didn’t, Victoria didn’t.”

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Western Australia also enforced tough border restrictions, keeping the state’s total number of cases under 560.

“Clearly there’s much greater levels of community transmission and infection in NSW and Victoria than there is here, so nice offer but no,” WA Premier Mark McGowan has said.

Ms Berejiklian said “the sooner the borders come down, the better”.

“I don’t want to be able to say to people, ‘I’m allowed to go to Auckland before I can go to Brisbane or before I can go to Perth’,” she said.

According to the Queensland “road map” to ease restrictions, released on May 8, interstate and further intrastate travel was to be allowed under stage three from July 10, subject to further planning and review.

But on Monday, Ms Palaszczuk said the state’s border may stay shut until September as there was still community transmission of COVID-19 in Victoria and NSW.

She said health advice would be considered at the end of each month ahead of any changes.

“For people out there that want to criticise the decisions that we are making, I say to you, I make no apologies for protecting the health of Queenslanders,” Ms Palaszczuk said on Tuesday.

She said South Australians may be allowed to visit Queensland as the state has no community transmission, having recently declared itself rid of all active known cases of COVID-19.

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