Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was deeply saddened to hear that former Cook Islands Prime Minister Joe Williams had died from Covid-19.
"He was a treasured and important member of the Cook Islands community – he obviously had an important role in politics but also served his community for a number of years through the medical profession as well."
Williams was the second death yesterday from Covid. A man in his 50s died yesterday morning in Middlemore hospital, the first Covid death in New Zealand since May.
Ardern said two Covid deaths yesterday was a "stark and sad reminder of just how deadly this virus is and can be."
"No one wanted any reminder of that. It is the lesson we have already learned and we must continue to do everything we can to prevent anyone else from the community from being taken," she told reporters after a visit to her old school, Morrinsville College.
She also commented on a suggestion by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday that he was planning a "hotspot" approach to travel between states in Australia which could also apply to travellers from New Zealand entering Australia.
"If there's no Covid in Christchurch and no Covid in Queensland, then there's no reason both of them can't come to Sydney," Morrison said.
Morrison, who spoke to Ardern about the approach yesterday morning, said Western Australia was the only state that did not endorse the hotspot approach.
Whether Australians could go to New Zealand was a matter for Ardern.
Ardern, however, did not offer enthusiasm for it.
She seemed to be treating Australia as one entity in terms of achieving a transtasman bubble, rather than allowing for different treatment of states.
"In terms of New Zealand, that doesn't change our plan," she said.
"Ultimately we are still working on getting into a position where we could still have a travel arrangement that is quarantine-free with Australia.
"It will rely, however, on us being secure and believing that they are free of community transmission so we can do so safely."
Ardern was in Morrinsville to open a new arts centre.
Her mother used to work in the school canteen.
"I am very proud to have come from Morrinsville and to have grown up here."
While she was an idealist, believed her upbringing had contributed to her being a pragmatist as well.
"Ultimately though I think my appreciation and respect for other people's views, even when they are different to mine, hails from here as well."
It was something of a nostalgic homecoming for Ardern.
"I had a wonderful childhood and a wonderful upbringing here and I credit a huge amount of that to the education I had at this school as well."