An Auckland woman stranded on the Gold Coast when quarantine-free travel was suspended after cases of Covid-19 were discovered in the community is calling for the Government to speed up decision-making on when green flights resume on the air route.
Kerry Crick, her husband and two friends were supposed to fly home to New Zealand on Tuesday last week, after a planned five-day trip across the Tasman to visit family and friends.
The two couples were forced to stay put after Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk ordered the snap three-day lockdown due to the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.
That lockdown ended for parts of Queensland, including the Gold Coast, at 6pm last night (8pm NZT).
But while the pause on the transtasman bubble for South Australia, ACT, Tasmania and Victoria will lift at 11.59pm Sunday, the friends must wait until Tuesday to find out when the quarantine-free border will again be opened between New Zealand and Queensland.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said on Tuesday this week a high level of risk remained for Queensland, as well as New South Wales, Western Australia and the Northern Territory - community cases were reported in all four states earlier this week - which was why the pause for those states would be reviewed next Tuesday.
Crick said the wait means they can't yet book flights or arrange the NZ$160 Covid tests required to be taken - and negative - within 72 hours of their flight.
"It's very frustrating not knowing the timeline. It's hard to think that you're stuck here, as a New Zealander, and they're not doing anything to get us home.
"We're out of lockdown here and we've got no cases here [on the Gold Coast] … we're vaccinated … why can't they resume [quarantine-free flights] on Sunday, or give us a date. Something so we know when we can get our tests. We've been stuck here a week already."
Hipkins told the Herald today the Government would be reviewing the Gold Coast travel bubble setting over the coming days.
"Health officials continue to review the situation in different Australia states and territories," Hipkins said.
"It's understandable that a pause can be disruptive for many people. However our concern first and foremost is ensuring Covid-19 is kept out of New Zealand communities.
"The Government has been very clear that transtasman travel settings could change at any time and that people should take that into account when they choose to fly."
Such an indefinite timeline is of little solace to Crick and her group who have had to pay for another week's rent on their apartment and take extra leave because they couldn't get back to New Zealand for work.
When the transtasman bubble opened in April Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said travellers should be aware crossing the ditch was on the basis of "flyer beware" and if quarantine-free travellers were required to go into MIQ on their return to New Zealand they'd have to pay for their stay.
Crick said she knew some would say the couple and their friends chose to go to Australia and becoming stuck was part of the risk during the pandemic. But the travel bubble was about boosting the economy of both countries.
"The travel bubble is open. It's to get things revved up and we're going to have to live with this, we're going to have to come up with better solutions [during outbreaks].
"There's no transparency, there's no processes for how to manage it … is this not an opportunity now to allow us home before there's another outbreak here?
"Why are there no protocols in place already for this scenario and everyone could then be fully aware of what to expect."