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Jacinda Ardern hopes to entice Australians to visit New Zealand as the country finally scraps restrictions on overseas travellers after two years of relentless Covid rules.
The NZ Prime Minister is visiting Australia this week, with trade and tourism the main topics on the agenda.
Her country has now relaxed its rules around international visitors and other measures taken to curb the spread of Covid, which saw several lockdowns enforced after just a handful of cases.
Travellers with approved visas can enter the country without having to isolate but must take two rapid tests upon arrival and report the results.
Jacinda Ardern is hoping to entice Australians to visit New Zealand as the country finally scraps restrictions on overseas travellers after two years of relentless Covid rules
The Kiwi leader will meet with Anthony Albanese, take part in an Australia-NZ leadership forum along with a number of New Zealand ministers, and deliver a speech on foreign policy at the Lowy Institute during her time Down Under.
‘This trade mission is one of many steps this Government is taking to reconnect New Zealand with the world while actively strengthening partnerships between government, business and industry,’ she said in a statement on Monday.
It’s Ardern’s second visit to Australia in a year, after she met with Anthony Albanese in June and called on Aussies to visit the country.
‘I don’t hesitate to say we missed you. And you will get a welcome like no other right now, because we’re so excited to have people back,’ she said.
‘It’s ski season in New Zealand. Look, in regular times, Australians made up of our international skiers about 71% of the market. So Aussies love to ski in New Zealand. I can see why. It’s easy, it’s accessible.
More than 30 NZ business leaders are joining Ms Ardern across the ditch, where she will also meet with NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Victorian leader Daniel Andrews.
New Zealand Small Business and Tourism Minister Stuart Nash, who is among the Kiwi ministers accompanying their PM, said Australia is NZ’s largest source of visitors.
Before the pandemic, more than 1.55million Australians crossed the Tasman Sea in 2019 and contributed over $NZ2.7billion ($A2.45billion) to New Zealand’s economy, he said.
‘With our borders now open and the removal of pre-departure testing, we’ve created significant opportunities for tourism recovery as we welcome back our Australian friends,’ he added.
New Zealand was thrown into several lockdowns after just a handful of cases under Ms Ardern’s zero-Covid authority (pictured Auckland during lockdown in August last year)
Covid curbs introduced by New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
March 16, 2020: Mandatory self-isolation for all new arrivals, including New Zealanders into the country.
March 19: All non-residents or citizens are banned from entering the country under an international border ban.
March 25: Nationwide lockdown enforced, with only essential services allowed to open. At this stage, NZ has recorded 102 cases and 0 deaths.
June 8, 2020: Ardern announces no new community transmissions within the past fortnight and says NZ has eliminated transmission of Covid.
August-September 2020: Auckland’s 1.7million residents endure two months of lockdown measures after 4 new cases are initially recorded.
February-March 2021: Auckland re-enters lockdown as three new Covid cases are recorded in the community.
August 17: All of New Zealand re-enters Level 4 lockdown measures for two weeks as one new community case is recorded.
October: Traffic light system is created, barring unvaccinated residents from entering businesses, gyms and barbers in ‘red’ or ‘amber’ alert areas.
December: The Government delays the planned reopening of its border in February due to the spreading Omicron variant.
December 21: Length of stay for people in Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) facilities increased to 10 days.
January 2022: Public backlash as major events and sporting fixtures are capped at a maximum of 100 people under Covid Red Alert measures.
January 18: Government postpones managed isolation and quarantine lottery due to increase in Covid cases.
January: Ardern announced she had cancelled her own wedding after nine new Omicron cases were recorded.
February: Government announces plan to open up country with New Zealanders and eligible travellers from Australia allowed to skip quarantine as long as they self-isolate for 10 days.
March 2: Vaccinated travellers entering the country no longer have to self-isolate on arrival.
May 2: UK travellers and those from other visa waiver countries allowed to enter country without self-isolating.
August 2022: New Zealand government to loosen restrictions to allow all travellers to enter the country provided they are vaccinated and take two rapid antigen tests after arrival.
New Zealand was mostly locked away from the rest of the world during Covid, due to Ms Ardern’s strict zero-Covid policy which also saw its own residents struggling to get home.
Ms Ardern had last week visited the UK and spruiked her country as a winter sun holiday destination.
Despite fierce criticism from some in the country over the restrictions, Ms Ardern has repeatedly defended the rules, saying they saved lives.
Ms Ardern, who was in the UK for talks with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, found time to appear on ITV’s Lorraine where she urged UK tourists to visit the country after it loosened rules so international travellers arriving after May 1 could do so without without quarantining.
Ms Ardern defended her hardline approach to the pandemic which saw even her own citizens struggling to get into NZ (pictured lockdown in Auckland in April, 2020)
‘We’re actually already open, anyone in the UK you can travel now. I’ll put a plug in, your winter is our summer so make those plans,’ she said.
‘Having been to Scotland though I can say summer is a little more summery in New Zealand, as much as I love places like Scotland.
‘I would like to think I can be objective, it [New Zealand] is just the most beautiful place.
‘What I love as well is you can get that combination of being in cities but then being in close proximity to nature, beaches, amazing walks, nature tourism and now food and wine – it’s hard to have a bad meal.’
The prime minister also defended her tough Covid rules, saying they helped save lives in her country.
‘We’re open and I think for everyone, there was no response to the pandemic that was without cost,’ she said.
‘It was either an awful and horrific cost to human life, or as we predominantly felt the cost of it being hard for people to move around.
‘You could come and go but we quarantined and because of quarantine it was limited space.
‘It was hard for everyone, but we came through it with much fewer hospitalisations and loss of life than most.’
When asked if she would have done anything different in hindsight, she said: ‘Of course. If you look back on something and you can’t think of something that you would have changed you’re probably not looking hard enough.
‘So absolutely. But the overall strategy, no, because I know it saved lives, I know it did.’
According to the World Health Organisation New Zealand has seen 1.3 million cases of Covid since the beginning of the pandemic, resulting in 1,466 deaths.
Pictured are volunteers in Auckland buying groceries for those in need during lockdown when Covid first hit in April, 2020