Wellington Scoop

Wellington to Canberra – planning how to start ‘test flights’ next month

Report from RNZ
Business leaders on both sides of the Tasman have proposed a trial run of the trans-Tasman bubble which would see flights between Wellington and Canberra take off by July.

Canberra Airport today opened a register of interest for the first flights on 1 and 2 July, but the plan has yet to get sign-off by Kiwi or Australian authorities.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last month said September was a “realistic” time frame to restart flights, but Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters has been agitating for a much quicker move.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry executive chair John Hart told RNZ the industry believed a July start-date for “a back-to-business flight” was do-able.

“We want to see this happen sooner than later,” Hart said. “It’s absolutely vital that we get some flow back into businesses either side of the Tasman.”

Under the proposal, the Wellington-Canberra route would operate for several weeks before being extended to other destinations around both countries.

All passengers would be pre-tested for Covid-19 before boarding and would have to follow local rules and restrictions on arrival.

The Australian newspaper reports that the first flight between Wellington and Canberra would be occupied by a group of politicians, business people and journalists, followed by a regular service between the two cities.

Travellers on either side of the Tasman would be encouraged to register with the respective tracking apps of the two countries.

Australia’s Trade and Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham told the Australian he was confident the move would work.

Air travel between the countries would offer a huge boost to the New Zealand tourism industry. A recent survey of Australians found New Zealand had shot up the wishlist of travel destinations.

Statement from Air New Zealand on proposed Wellington-Canberra route
Air New Zealand is pleased to be working with the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum as part of the Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group. Together with airports, tourism bodies and government representatives, safe border recommendations are being developed to be proposed to New Zealand and Australian government agencies for their consideration.

Air New Zealand is not proposing Tasman operations until such time that the Tasman borders are open, and only with the support of governments on both sides. We appreciate that both businesses and travellers are enthusiastic about operations – and we assure customers that as soon as it is possible to operate, Air New Zealand will be ready to return to the Tasman.

Media Release – Auckland Business Chamber
Start early, test carefully, and progressively open the Australia-New Zealand market to air travel starting with regular flights between Canberra and Wellington as the first step to prove systems and processes are in place for safe and effective movement of people between the two countries.

That’s the joint proposal from the Chambers of Commerce in Australia and NZ to go to both Governments in the next day to get the gateway open to kickstart trade, business, travel, tourism, events – and save jobs. The Chambers will report back when both governments have considered the detailed plan.

“We need to help the survival, recovery and sustainability of our vital tourism, export, event and travel sector and instead of talking about bursting the bubble, we have a plan to give consumers and governments confidence that we can bet back to business,” Auckland Business Chamber CEO, Michael Barnett, said

“We feed each other and we need each other’s dollars urgently to help with economic recovery. New Zealand needs Aussies back here as our single most important visitors, all 1.5 million of them, supporting our tourism sector, our cafes and events decimated by the enforced shutdown.

“We see the test flights as symbolic between the two nations’ capital and sister cities but critical to demonstrating that there are processes and safeguards in place to keep Covid-19 at bay and allow the free movement of people.

“Following the successful implementation of flights between Canberra and Wellington over a number of weeks, and the thorough evaluation of the systems and processes in place, we believe that further destinations around the Australian and New Zealand network could open. We need to not just say we are open for business but be able to roll out the welcome mat.”

Press Release – Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum
An alliance of Australasian experts has lodged a comprehensive blueprint for the resumption of ‘safe’ trans-Tasman travel with the New Zealand and Australian Prime Ministers, recommending multiple layers of protection to be embedded across the passenger journey.

The detailed proposal, which was developed by the Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group made up of a team of 40 experts, provides a series of recommendations to the two governments on the creation of a safe air corridor between Australia and New Zealand.

Scott Tasker, co-chair of the Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group and Auckland Airport’s General Manager Aeronautical Commercial, said the proposal was aligned with official guidance from the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

“This has been a significant piece of work involving experts from all parts of the system. We’ve worked solidly together over the past three weeks to develop a detailed and comprehensive framework to enable the safe and sustainable re-start of scheduled passenger services between Australia and New Zealand, and we’re delighted to have submitted our proposal to government,” said Scott Tasker.

“We believe our recommendations will effectively manage the risks but importantly they will also provide confidence to Australian and New Zealand travellers to visit each other’s countries to reconnect with family and friends, re-establish vital business links, and provide a lifeline of visitors to our respective tourism industries.”

Co-chair of the Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group and Chief Executive Officer of the Tourism & Transport Forum (TTF) Margy Osmond said the protections would ensure passengers felt safe throughout their journey, from the point at which they were considering and booking a flight across the Tasman, to moving through airports, the flight itself and arriving at their destination.

“It is now for our respective governments to review and work through the detail of the proposal and we are looking forward to supporting them further in reestablishing travel between the two countries,” Ms Osmond said.

The Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group has recommended the establishment of a ‘Safe Travel Zone’ to be introduced in line with strong baseline health conditions in each country for the management of COVID-19. The recommendations include several layers of protections across the traveller journey, allowing for the sustainable re-start of ‘scheduled passenger services’ without the need for a 14-day passenger quarantine.

Initiated by Auckland Airport and supported by the Tourism and Transport Forum Australia (TTF), the Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group has been co-ordinated by the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum (ANZLF).

The members of the group are:

  • Ministry of Health (NZ)
  • Auckland District Health Board (NZ)
  • Waitemata District Health Board (NZ)
  • New Zealand Immigration
  • New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • Australian Department of Health
  • Australian Trade and Investment Commission
  • Australian Border Force
  • Aviation Security Service (NZ)
  • Ministry for Primary Industries (NZ)
  • Ministry of Transport (NZ)
  • Te Tari Taiwhenua Internal Affairs (NZ)
  • New Zealand Customs
  • Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (NZ)
  • Auckland Airport
  • Sydney Airport
  • Wellington Airport
  • Melbourne Airport
  • Christchurch Airport
  • Brisbane Airport
  • Air New Zealand
  • Qantas
  • Australian New Zealand Leadership Forum
  • Tourism & Transport Forum (AU)
  • Tourism Industry Aotearoa
  • Board of Airline Representatives NZ
  • BusinessNZ

Australia and New Zealand are two of the most integrated economies in the world, with a Single Economic Market agenda in place to support a seamless trans-Tasman business environment. Each country is vital to the success of each other’s small and medium-sized businesses, and contributes strongly to each other’s tourism sectors, with estimated $3 billion in international visitor spend each way every year.

Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, New Zealand was the most popular outbound travel destination for Australians with 1.5 million visitors arriving from across the Tasman in 2019, accounting for 40% of all foreign visitors to New Zealand. Likewise, Australia was the most popular outbound travel destination for Kiwis. New Zealand is Australia’s second largest source market for visitors (behind China), with 1.4 million visitors in 2019, accounting for 15% of total visitors to Australia.

The ANZLF has a strong track record of collaboration, successfully working alongside government to support the development and implementation of initiatives such as e-Gate technology as part of the Single Economic Market border workstream.


  1. Charles Finny, 4. June 2020, 11:01

    The article suggests that this will be a gradual opening and Wellington – Canberra would be the first route to test the concept.

  2. greenwelly, 4. June 2020, 11:44

    Singapore Airlines couldn’t make WLG-CBR work, even with a Singapore leg and a subsidy from both the WCC and the ACT government. Why would it work now. Also, would it be only open to those in ACT or the Wellington region, or would all of OZ and NZ be able to connect to this flight?? It sounds a bit weird.

  3. Matt, 4. June 2020, 13:40

    Prices would be hefty for a flight between the two cities during COVID

  4. greenwelly, 4. June 2020, 14:39

    Sounds like this proposal is DoA anyway. In the NZ Herald:
    “Plans by Australian and New Zealand business groups to create a Wellington-Canberra travel bubble have been described as ‘curious’ by the government-sanctioned group that’s been working for weeks on the project.”