On Monday, news that the Cook Islands would be opening a safe-travel bubble with New Zealand was met with great excitement. However, Australians are being told the islands are still off limits.
From 17 May tourists can visit the islands from New Zealand, quarantine-free - but this new arrangement has caused some complications with New Zealand's' existing Transtasman travel bubble.
Australians are being told that they could face fines or jail time on return, if they use New Zealand's other quarantine-free air route.
The Australian Border Force is warning travellers intending to transit through New Zealand that they must first apply for an "outward travel exemption", and without urgent compassionate grounds for visiting the Cook Islands they could be breaking the law.
Quarantine-free travel between the Cook Islands and New Zealand is to begin on 17 May.
Anyone in New Zealand can travel quarantine-free to the Cook Islands, as long as they meet the eligibility criteria and immigration requirements.
On Monday, when PM Arden announced the bubble, the new Cooks travel arrangement would function much like the one in place with Australia. There would be a travel alert system for managing potential Covid 19 outbreaks and "as in the case with Australia, the bubble comes with a 'flyer-beware' caveat," she said.
However, the Cook Islands bubble is being introduced in addition to, and not as part of the existing Transtasman bubble. Any traveller wishing to fly to Rarotonga must have first spent 14 days in New Zealand.
In a statement to news.com.au the Australian Border Force said that the new Cook Islands travel arrangement "will not include Australia".
However, once in New Zealand, customs agencies had "no role or power to prevent the further departure of Australian citizens to overseas destinations from New Zealand."
This overseas travel loop hole has previously been exploited by Australians as a gateway to countries currently off-limits under Australian Covid 19 restrictions.
The Australian government has recently cracked down on travellers exploiting the backdoor to overseas travel. Australians transiting New Zealand to a third country are now required to apply for an exemption on compassionate grounds.
Under the country's new biosecurity laws, returning travellers are being threatened with jail if they are found to have been using New Zealand to visit other destinations.
Currently travel to the Cook Islands does not have its own safe-travel agreement with Australia.
Australian airlines are still waiting on this agreement, though they have welcomed New Zealand's safe-travel bubble as a positive step.
Speaking to the Herald a spokesperson for Qantas group member JetStar says its Cook Islands flights are on hold, until Australia has its own bubble.
"Our services to Rarotonga originate in Australia so are not part of the NZ/Cook Island bubble," he said.
"We look forward to the Australian Government working with the Cook Islands and other Pacific Island governments for two-way quarantine-free travel in the future."
- With news.com.au reporting