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Aust-NZ bubble in Q1 still doable: Ardern

Jacinda Ardern is holding the line on a first quarter trans-Tasman bubble with Australia, believing it is still possible despite new community cases of coronavirus in New Zealand.

“We still hold that ambition,” she said in Auckland on Thursday.

Australia and New Zealand are engaged in a spat over the cases, which caused the federal government to suspend its one-way ‘green zone’ travel.

Ms Ardern criticised that decision, telling Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison of her disappointment, believing Kiwi health authorities had the situation “well under control”.

On Thursday afternoon, health minister Greg Hunt lengthened that suspension for another 72 hours through to Sunday.

Ms Ardern said New Zealand was sharing information with Australia in the hope of reopening the border.

“I’ve never got the sense that would be a long-term position for them. They are ultimately just waiting for a bit more information,” she said.

“I’ve asked … officials provide all the information that we have so they can make their decisions. We absolutely want them to have the confidence we have in our system.”

Trans-Tasman bubble discussions have previously fallen over due to differing views on the number of cases required to produce a lockdown.

Under its hotspot model, Australia proposed to lock down areas only after reaching 30 community cases over three days.

New Zealand wanted lockdowns to come into effect with a smaller number of cases.

Given Australia moved to suspend the border opening based on just one case, Kiwis have found this week’s decision tough to stomach.

While there are now three community cases in New Zealand, health authorities say there is still no evidence of community transmission.

Ms Ardern said she would look to pursue state-by-state bubble arrangements if a whole-of-Australia approach was too difficult.

“What we want to make sure though is that when we enter into an arrangement, we don’t have a situation where we leave people stranded,” she said.

“Both (countries) are concerned about that and there’s good commercial reasons to be concerned about that too.”

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