NZ First leader Peters shows NZ a friend of Fiji and the Pacific
New Zealand First Party leader and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters, has successfully lobbied for a Pacific travel bubble and it could happen soon.
He told the New Zealand media that it is weeks away. It is understood that it will coincide with the start of the NZ school holidays on July 6.
That will allow NZ families to travel for their usual Pacific holidays. In winter many Kiwi families head to the tropics for sunshine, a warmer climate and a pristine environment. Fiji is among their favourite destinations. An average of 180,000 Kiwis holiday in Fiji every year.
The Pacific travel bubble is great news to many hotel workers and employees of secondary industries who have lost their jobs because of COVID-19. It is exactly what Minister for Economy and Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, had sought when he said NZ and Australia should not treat Fiji and other small island states as “second class” in the Transtasman bubble talk.
NZ Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, had earlier indicated that the Pacific would be included in a travel bubble with Australia. That would not happen soon because Australia is not COVID-19 free like Fiji and the rest of the Pachfic.
There is a strong case there for a Pacific bubble first while NZ waits for Australia to become COVID-19 free. From an economic perspective New Zealand depends on Australia for its tourism industry. That’s why it is interested in a bubble with the Aussies. Mr Peters, a veteran of New Zealand politics, has shown that NZ is a friend of the Pacific. His announcement of the bubble would appeal to more than 300, 000 Pacific people living in NZ who feel for their families and relatives hit hard by the economic impact of COVID-19 in the islands.
While he genuinely takes keen interest in Pacific issues there could be a silver lining here for Mr Peters whose party is struggling in the latest public opinion polls with the general election only months away. As a junior partner to Ms Ardern’s Labour Party in the coalition Goverment, questions are being asked whether he could hold his ground in the coming election,
Right now, Mr Peters is the flavour of the moment for Pacific Islanders and Kiwis who do business with the islands.
He has responded positively to the wish of Fiji and the Pacific.
His move will kickstart the tourism industry in the region. It’s exactly what Fiji has been hoping for..