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REGULAR POSTS FROM NEW ZEALAND & AUSTRALIA

Posts with tag: travel bubble

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Go Home, Stay Home

Posted by Paul on Oct. 29, 2021, 11:06 a.m. in Travel bubble

When I was younger (much younger), like most New Zealand children, one of our favourite summer evening games was “go home stay home”… a twist on the traditional “tag”, where you and your neighbourhood comrades had to reach a particular place (we used to refer to it as a base) and yell “go home, stay home” as loudly as possible and much to the chagrin of your neighbours. Whilst all of this was going on, one person was tasked with chasing the players down and ‘tagging’ them, which usually resulted in many a fall and plenty of irreversible grass stains on your new Stubbies (look that up). Fond memories for many of us living in New Zealand.

Fast forward a fair few years (I won’t tell you how many) and nowadays the phrase “go home, stay home” has taken on an entirely new meaning. Globally most of us have experienced the game of lockdown in which we all must go home and stay home, although it is nowhere near as much fun and leaves a very different kind of stain.  There are however plenty of New Zealanders stuck offshore, who would love nothing more than to be even able to just get home let alone stay home, forced in to playing the MIQ lottery in order to do so (MIQ is our mandatory isolation process for arrivals in to New Zealand). As far as games go, the MIQ process, where equally worthy contestants virtually line up to be randomly selected in order to secure one of a limited number of places, is pretty Orwellian.

For almost two years, citizens and Resident Visa holders returning to New Zealand or those approved to come here to fulfil critical roles have had to compete with each other for valuable places within the MIQ system and demand has far outweighed supply. Equally some of these MIQ places have been made available to isolate and quarantine local Covid cases as they have appeared, which up until August of this year were relatively small numbers.

With the arrival of Delta to our shores two months ago and despite the country being thrown in to varying levels of lockdown (Auckland bearing the brunt of it for the last two months), community case numbers have continued to increase, leading to further pressure on the local demand for MIQ – all the while those offshore continue to run the lottery with each new set of room releases. The system that was already a mess and straining under the weight of people competing for a spot, is now practically unworkable.

Like many countries, New Zealand has now finally realised and the Government has admitted (perhaps a little too late) that the elimination strategy and making people go home and keeping them there for months on end, isn’t going to win the war – the only real way out is to vaccinate as many people as you can and ensure your health system is ready to cope with the potential overflow. Covid being out and about is inevitable, eliminating it is fanciful, managing it is the best you can hope for. With the push for a 90% vaccination target (which many think is overly ambitious) that will lead to the end of lockdowns and a new traffic light system to manage our freedoms (yes, traffic lights), we will no doubt move to a more workable border management system as well.

There are signs that this is coming and given the inevitable increase in local case numbers, using the already faltering MIQ process to isolate those onshore cases was never going to work. The plan of course is to move to allowing people to self-isolate at home dependent on their vaccination status and introducing that will take the pressure off the MIQ process which simply couldn’t cope with case numbers increasing at the current rate. In fact, as this goes to print, some unlucky Covid recipients in Auckland are already being allowed to quarantine at home as an interim measure – no doubt because the MIQ system is already bulging at the seams.

Logically (for most of us) if you can have someone onshore with Covid, self-isolating as a means to manage the spread of the virus, then it would stand to reason that someone coming in from offshore, fully vaccinated and with a negative test before arriving should be able to do the same. It appears as though the penny has dropped with the powers that be.

As of Thursday this week, our Covid response Minister outlined that the overall risk profile of those coming in via the border versus those already here with Covid has been reviewed and it makes sense. The number of Covid cases arriving at our border is incredibly low, compared to those cases spreading in the community and thus there is a strong argument to rebalance the use of MIQ in both situations.

From 14 November MIQ stays will be reduced to one week, followed by short stays of home isolation, along with testing at regular intervals. This on its own will free up a lot of MIQ rooms which will go back in to the system to allow more people to return.

In addition to this, fully vaccinated travellers from a small number of low risk countries will be able to enter NZ without requiring MIQ and instead being able to self-isolate at home. These countries are however largely our pacific neighbours where Covid is virtually non-existent.

Lastly and in the early part of 2022, a wider range of international arrivals will be able to arrive and self-isolate, rather than having to fight for quarantine accommodation.

While the details are a bit vague at this stage and largely refer to New Zealand citizens and Residents being able to come back first, eventually this approach will extend to those people coming in for many other purposes, including workers, students and visitors.

There is no doubt that all of this will be staggered out over time and different groups will be able to take advantage of the ability to self-isolate (thus avoiding the MIQ headache) at different times, but the message is clear – NZ is aiming to open up. One might find some irony in the fact that it took another outbreak and an increase in Covid cases marching their way up and down the two islands to bring about this realisation – but we shan’t protest (too much).

For New Zealanders and those with Visas already in hand, this is potentially great news and brings a lot of light to the end of what has been in some cases a very dark and long tunnel. Equally for those of you looking to make the move and settle here, it reinforces our previous messages, that New Zealand is not closed for business.

There is also no question that the Government has had the beleaguered MIQ process and rising onshore case numbers at the front of mind when planning the border reopening but equally there is rising economic pressure due to an incredible and ongoing shortage of skills that will be adding to the border management puzzle.

So poorly managed is the existing MIQ process that even though we can secure Visas for those whose skills we critically need, they can’t actually get here to deploy those skills, when the last step is essentially a lottery for hotel rooms. There is no shortage of press coverage over how flawed this approach is and how much it is hurting our economic recovery and growth, particularly when unemployment numbers remain consistently low.

In a recent post, we commented on the current labour market predicament and the scarcity of skills and how that would clearly indicate that New Zealand is by no means ‘closed for business’ as far as migration is concerned. This move to remedy the current MIQ system and free up spaces, along with eventually allowing those who are fully vaccinated to be able to travel in and out more freely, clearly reinforces that.

For those of you considering the move here, it has been an uncertain time and there are still plenty of potential changes to be revealed, but the underlying fact is that New Zealand needs those with the skills we are so desperately lacking and we are working (slowly) towards being able to bring them through.

While some uncertainty remains, what myself and my colleagues are convinced of is the fact that when the borders do open up and potential migrants are able to make their way here, the competition will be fierce. Despite our somewhat fortress like approach to the pandemic, New Zealand remains a very popular destination for the would-be migrant and there will be people lining up to secure those jobs when the opportunity arises. The question now, for those considering the move, is will you be ready to be at the front of that queue or will you be lagging behind. The smart money will be on those who take the time now to prepare themselves as best they can for when the flood gates open.

There is no question that in the race to call New Zealand home, there will be a few grass stains acquired along the way as the Government continues to navigate (some might say fumble) its way through the pandemic, but with the right team mates on board and identifying the right strategy now, there will be plenty of opportunities to yell “go home, stay home” from this side of the world.

Until next week…


Travel Bubble

Posted by Myer on April 23, 2021, 10:21 a.m. in Travel bubble

Property bubbles, equity bubbles, general asset bubbles and now a Trans Tasman travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand. It feels a bit like I’m in a bubble bath.

Earlier this week both countries agreed to form a travel “bubble” and this exciting news heralds just one more step towards normalisation of travel arrangements.

From October of last year, New Zealand citizens could visit Australia without undergoing quarantine arrangements but until the recent announcement, would have to undergo 14 days of quarantine when they return to New Zealand as would Australian residents.

Now Australian citizens and residents and New Zealand citizens and residents can travel freely between the two countries provided they have spent 14 days before departure in either Australia or New Zealand. They must not be awaiting the results of Covid test nor have any covid symptoms, amongst other criteria. The same applies to temporary residents in either country who hold valid visas to enter either Australia or New Zealand.

This will present a huge boost to the New Zealand tourism and hospitality industry because statistically approximately 40% of total annual visitors to New Zealand are Australians and 1.5 million New Zealand citizens tend to visit Australia on an annual basis accounting for approximately 15% of our visitor numbers each year.

The bubble is worth NZ$2.7 billion for New Zealand and AU$2.6 billion to Australia and represents a sizeable boost to the ailing tourism and hospitality industries in both countries.

The announcement was only possible because of the manner in which Australia and New Zealand have essentially stopped community spread of coronavirus, with no community transmitted cases reported in either country. The only cases of Covid 19 are international travellers undergoing quarantine in both countries.

New Zealand and Australia are no strangers to facing adversity together with perhaps the ANZAC campaign in Gallipoli in which Australian and New Zealand troops fought side-by-side being a catalyst for nationalism in both countries and the basis of a deep relationship that forms the basis of a sense of national identity for both countries.

Prior to 1973 neither New Zealand nor Australia exercised systematic control over immigration from the main Commonwealth countries (mainly United Kingdom and Canada) and New Zealanders and Australians were free to move between each country under informal arrangements.

In 1973 the countries announced what would become known as the Trans-Tasman travel arrangement in which the citizens of both countries could travel freely between each other without needing passports.

In the early 1980s this arrangement was amended to include the need for passports to travel between the respective countries, and in the late 1980s Australian citizens and permanent residents were exempt from the requirement to hold the visa or residence permit to enter and stay in New Zealand. However, this arrangement was only reciprocated to the level that New Zealand citizens (but not permanent residents) were exempt from having to obtain a visa for Australia, and this was later amended to issue New Zealand citizens with a special category visa on arrival in Australia.

Under the trans-Tasman mutual recognition arrangement signed in 1997 both countries mutually recognise professional qualifications thereby enabling professionals to work in either country. For example, a New Zealand solicitor can gain professional registration in Australia through a relatively simple procedure of registering with the relevant State Legal Services Board and presenting a certificate of good standing from the New Zealand Law Society.

I find that not many non-New Zealand/Australian citizens appreciate the principle of mutual recognition and it is a very useful tool in any migration agents armoury of knowledge because it’s often easier to obtain professional registration for an overseas trained professional in either Australia or New Zealand but not necessarily both. Whilst professional bodies recognise mutual registration in New Zealand and Australia they often don’t adopt similar registration procedures for those who qualified in other countries.

An example of this would be South African trained physiotherapists who generally don’t have to undergo requalification or professional exams in order to obtain professional registration in New Zealand but do require exams in order to obtain registration in Australia.

We are often asked whether New Zealand or Australia has the superior education system but the fact that both countries mutually recognise each other’s qualifications means that they must regard the educational systems of each country on par.

As someone born in South Africa but lived in New Zealand for 20 years and Australia for 12, I have a perspective that New Zealand and Australian citizens perhaps don’t have. I think Australians and New Zealanders tend to highlight the differences but from the perspective of someone born elsewhere, there are more similarities than differences between both societies and cultures. They are not the same but are similar, I often like to compare them to cousins related by geography, political leanings and economy.

At a time when tensions are running high with our largest trading partner China, perhaps it’s a time to revisit countries who hold the same liberal values as Australia to forge closer trade ties. Whilst this might not necessarily result in the cheapest imported products, perhaps there are socio-economic and political considerations that might be more valuable than a fractious relationship that can be valued in dollars and cents.

I am sure that there will be much cause for celebration on both sides of the Tasman now that we are allowed to embrace our Antipodean brothers and sisters in our Trans Tasman bubble.


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