Ardern advanced talks on the creation of a trans-Tasman bubble with counterpart Scott Morrison in a phone meeting on Tuesday night.
“There is a chance that we could have Australia simply open to New Zealand because of our status and where we are right now, which is pretty good,” she told AAP.
“They could just say, ‘Well look one way (travel from New Zealand to Australia) is fine by us’ until we work through some of the detail, and it’s a possibility.”
The NZ Labour leader, overseeing a COVID-19 elimination strategy, has established a series of criteria that must be met before opening borders to other nations.
That means New Zealand reciprocating and allowing Australians in for quarantine-free travel is a little further away.
The Victorian outbreak led to an impasse in trans-Tasman bubble talks with Australia, though Ardern says Morrison’s embrace of a “hotspot” system would allow travel to resume sooner.
“Essentially what a hotspot system would do, it would shut down those areas where there were heightened cases, while allowing the rest to be open. And so absolutely, we can also make that work,” she told AAP.
“What we just need to hear a bit more from Australia on is what the definition of a hotspot will be, how they’ll manage the state borders in those situations, but we’re working that through.”
Ardern said opening up to Pacific nations – beginning with the Cook Islands – was “absolutely” still part of New Zealand’s re-engagement with the world.
“The threshold that we’ll set will meet the Cooks’ expectations,” she said.
On Tuesday, Morrison said people flying into Australia from overseas could soon be allowed to quarantine at home, asking officials to look into the proposal.
Ardern said New Zealand was unlikely to follow suit, saying “quarantine-free travel is our version of that”.
“I do think there’s something to be said at looking at the other end, thinking about whether or not for high-risk countries we need to have, an additional element of extra self-isolation,” she said.
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