Cook Islands and New Zealand working towards two-way travel bubble in May

March 26, 2021

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown (left) and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (right).

By Elijah Fa'afiu - elijah.fa'

The Cook Islands and New Zealand are working towards commencing a two-way quarantine-free travel bubble in May.

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown met with his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern in a bilateral meeting this afternoon in Auckland.

Among the top priorities discussed were the two-way travel bubble, as well as a vaccination campaign for the Cook Islands.

Mark Brown says his country's public health measures are ready for quarantine-free travel with New Zealand, which they have been working on for the past year.

“We’ve had a year to prepare ourselves. For us, the priority is on prevention, the next priority’s on containment. 

“New Zealand’s measures that they’ve put in place have provided that additional comfort for us in terms of prevention. 

“We have our own systems in place for the prevention of Covid coming into the country. We’ve been putting it into practice for the last three months. So all I can say is that we’re ready for business and we’re looking forward to the commencement during May.”

A challenge to Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown during a powhiri.

​New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says not everyone in the Cook Islands will need to be vaccinated in order for the travel bubble to kick off.

“It has never been contingent on the completion of wide scale full population vaccination, however the Director-General (of Health) has acknowledged that it does provide that extra layer of protection.”

Ardern says the New Zealand government will continue to support any vaccination rollout in the realm countries of the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau, even while two-way travel occurs.

“You will see vaccination programmes happening in those countries alongside the vaccination programmes in New Zealand. 

“The thing that we’ll need to weigh up is logistically, it makes good sense that in some case, it would go in and just start the rollout in its entirety given the population base relative to the five million we’ll be doing in New Zealand.”

Since the end of January, people in the Cook Islands have been able to travel to and from New Zealand without quarantining.

There have been fears in the Cook Islands that 40 per cent of its workforce could leave the country to search for opportunities in New Zealand.

Mark Brown says businesses in the Cook Islands is heavily reliant on the two-way travel bubble taking place.  

“These are far, deeper structural issues and one of them of course is to do with labour and to arrest that loss of labour is going to be very important for us and the only way that we can do that is to get businesses back up and running. 

“If tourists are not bringing money into the country for workers to earn, these workers will go and look for that money in other countries and that’s what’s happening now.

New Zealand will re-prioritise $20 million of additional support for the Cook Islands. 

Jacinda Ardern and Mark Brown greet during the powhiri at Auckland War Memorial Museum.