Ardern muddled on trans-Tasman movement

Jacinda Ardern says work on the trans-Tasman bubble is continuing at a bureaucratic level.
Jacinda Ardern says work on the trans-Tasman bubble is continuing at a bureaucratic level.

After a day of mixed messages, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says state borders are a matter for Australia and doesn't expect their reopening before the establishment of a trans-Tasman bubble.

On Monday, Nine newspapers reported NSW and Victoria may see the resumption of business-as-usual trans-Tasman travel before other states which had more restrictive border regimes.

Australian tourism minister Simon Birmingham said slow-moving states shouldn't hinder the creation of the bubble, telling Nine "the reluctance of other states to open up their domestic borders shouldn't become an obstacle to progress".

Ms Ardern first scotched that idea, saying "it matters" whether New Zealanders are able to move around Australia freely.

"The states haven't opened up to each other yet," she told Radio New Zealand.

"Obviously I would expect to see some of those issues resolved before we'd see them necessarily opening up to New Zealand and you can understand why.

"People want to be able to travel internally in Australia before they'd expect to be able to come across the ditch."

Speaking shortly afterwards on 1News, she softened her language, saying the "most likely sequencing" is state borders opening up first.

"I imagine they'll want to see those issues resolved around their domestic border, most likely first, that's my expectation," she said.

Later in the day, she told reporters the creation of the bubble - or safe travel zone - was not conditional on state border relaxation.

"It's contingent on Australia signalling that they are ready," she said.

"They may choose to open up while they have some internal border restrictions. They may choose to wait. I see that has a matter for Australia.

"I would anticipate that they probably want to resolve that movement issue first but that's absolutely a matter for Australia."

Australian states and territories have slapped restrictions on movement into their jurisdictions.

Western Australia has shut its borders, with only select exemptions available for would-be visitors.

South Australia and Tasmania requires travellers to quarantine, while Northern Territory requires arrivals to undertake and pay for their own quarantine.

Irrespective of the decision, Ms Ardern said work on the trans-Tasman bubble was continuing at a bureaucratic level.

"We have officials working on the practicalities of what on the ground, what managing the border, a trans-Tasman bubble would look like and how it would work in practice," she said.

Ms Ardern also confirmed the trans-Tasman safe zone would come before growth to include any neighbouring Pacific nations that have interest.

Australian Associated Press