Winston Peters on Pacific inclusion in travel bubble: 'We will try to help out'

The Coalition Government is looking at including the Pacific Islands in the trans-Tasman bubble, with Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters saying that if New Zealand does not "help out this way we'll be helping out in aid".

Mr Peters was asked why a Pacific-New Zealand bubble could not be created before Australia, to which he replied the Government was working towards "doing it all together".

New Zealand has committed to creating a travel bubble with Australia, but a timeframe has not yet been set. 

"We belong in the Pacific," Mr Peters said, adding many Pacific economies were suffering due to lack of tourism revenue. 

"We need to help out. If we don't help out this way we'll be helping out in aid. It makes more sense to keep their economies going or try and revive them as fast as possible."

The Cook Islands private sector taskforce has called on New Zealand's Government to prioritise a bubble between the two countries, after it remained Covid-free. 

It is also projecting a 90 per cent revenue drop due to Covid-19. The taskforce say unless border restrictions are dropped and it can welcome New Zealand tourists, the Cook Islands would need a bail out. 

It is a sentiment echoed by Fiji's Economy Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiym, who told the Australian Financial Review in May including Fiji in a trans-Tasman bubble would do "far more good than any aid or assistance".

"Fijians yearn to swim sustainably, not just be kept afloat."

On May 28, Mr Peters said including Pacific Islands nations in the trans-Tasman bubble was being looked at. However, he added, "the last thing we want to do is imperil the populations of those countries" with Covid-19.  

New Zealand currently has no active cases of the virus. 

Mr Peters said he was conscious some Pacific Islands countries were keen to expand the concept of a trans-Tasman bubble.

"A safe travel zone with the Pacific could provide a welcome boost to economies in the region, which have been hit hard by Covid-19 as the result of border closures and supply chain disruption, even with very low case numbers," Mr Peters said today. 

"It would also provide some Pacific Island nationals with a pathway to return home.

"We have to look at every country’s maritime and aviation security measures, as well as their medical preparedness in regards to Covid-19 - just as we are currently doing with Australia."

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