State launches plan to restart NZ flights
THE Queensland Government has launched top-level talks with Air New Zealand to secure the country's first international tourists in months to kickstart a coronavirus tourism revival.
With New Zealand's Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters yesterday supporting a return to travel for Australian regions that have successfully nullified the spread of the coronavirus, The Courier-Mail can reveal that the Queensland Government is in discussions to relaunch flights from New Zealand to Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Cairns and the Sunshine Coast.
It is understood the flights from across the ditch could deliver tourist from New Zealand to Queensland months before international flights to NSW and Victoria are back in the sky.
New Zealand is Queensland's biggest international tourism market after China, with almost 500,000 Kiwis injecting more than $600 million in to the state's economy last year.
While it could be months before flights resume with China, New Zealand is a completely different proposition, with the nation earning universal praise for its response to the global pandemic.
New Zealand has just reverted to the lowest level of restrictions after more than two weeks without any new cases of the virus.
Mr Peters said travel between the two trans-Tasman nations should not be held back by 'slower states' such as NSW and Victoria which still have a much higher catalogue of cases than elsewhere in Australia.
"The performance of Queensland, Northern Territory and, dare I say it, Tasmania, has been superior to New Zealand's in many ways even though we've done surprisingly good," he said.
"Let's not restrain the movement between our two countries based on the slowest state in Australia."
New Zealand health experts are confident the travel bubble plan could start as soon as next month.
While WA, SA, Tasmania and the two territories have recorded similar success against the coronavirus to Queensland, the Sunshine State is better positioned to welcome Kiwi tourists back, traditionally offering cheaper flights and shorter journeys.
State Tourism Minister Kate Jones would not confirm details of talks with Air New Zealand but said the government was 'always keen to secure new flights to Queensland'.
"We're working hard to ensure we fast-track Queensland's economic recovery and flights are vital to the tourism industry," she said.
"Our government has invested more to secure direct flights to Queensland than any government in history.
"Of course we're always keen to talk about new flights to Queensland in the future."
There is an added incentive for New Zealand leaders to push for the resumption of flights, with Australia making up almost half of the country's annual international visitor numbers.
Originally published as State launches plan to restart NZ flights