'Dangerous to open borders'
WELLINGTON: The business community has pinned its hopes on the New Zealand border reopening as soon as possible and says the Government has failed to hold up its end of the deal.
Business leaders say billions of dollars of opportunities are on hold while the Government and the Defence Force fixes mistakes most New Zealanders thought were being managed.
The Government is trying to plug testing and quarantine gaps, while at the same time the Opposition ramps up pressure for the border to open.
But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said even considering opening the border right now was reckless.
‘‘Any suggestion of borders opening at this point frankly is dangerous and I don’t think we should put New Zealand in that position,’’ she said.
She was responding to national leader Todd Muller who told the Wellington Chamber of Commerce yesterday it appeared New Zealand would stay closed until other countries had reduced their Covid presence to similar levels.
‘‘The idea that we can sit here at the bottom of the world with 20% of our exports off the table in terms of international students and tourism and essentially just trade amongst ourselves for the foreseeable future, locked up to the rest of the world and waiting for a vaccine, I think is untenable as a longterm strategy,’’ he said.
He wanted to know what was required for New Zealand to enter into travel bubbles with other countries, such as Australia and the Pacific.
Ms Ardern said opening up more to Australia and the Pacific was being considered, but anyone pushing for
more open borders now was irresponsible.
She said opening the border with countries in the medium term depended on many factors, including the turnaround time for tests, how rampant Covid19 is, the ability to treat a large number of people and whether a vaccine is available.
Almost four million international tourists typically cross New Zealand shores each year and BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope said livelihoods depend on that border opening again.
But for now, the Government was not even resuming compassionate exemptions, let alone allowing international visitors in, because there was not enough confidence in quarantine and managed isolation facilities, he said.
‘‘Until we can guarantee that, I
think we have to rightly say the risk is too high.
‘‘Now, that’s disappointing, because those things are all completely manageable,’’ he said.
Mr Hope said the border reopening needed to be a priority.
‘‘We do need to get the border in because the economic impact of being shut is so significant.’’
In the case of international students, they could be arriving now.
‘‘Our universities could properly quarantine people in New Zealand and we could get that part of our international economy going again.
‘‘International education contributes a significant amount of money, some $5 billion a year,’’ he said. — RNZ