Last week's Australia travel bubble announcement delivered more questions than answers.
With airlines poised to launch new Australia - New Zealand routes, reviving the Auckland to Hobart service, speculation was that a travel bubble was imminent. Not so. However, with the PM Ardern's post cabinet briefing New Zealanders were told that we would have to wait until 6 April for a definitive restart date for quarantine-free travel.
"Opening up a green travel zone without quarantine is highly complex," said the prime minister, who would not be moved to reveal a date. Saying only that a travel corridor "remained a priority" the country would soon "lock in the gains" made by closing borders with our closest neighbours.
For the past ten months, Canberra and Wellington have been leading each other in a merry dance, one step forward and two steps back. However, with negotiations reaching a crescendo, we may not have got a definitive date, we did but we did get a look into what moves we can expect to see on Tuesday.
In the form of a six-step checklist, there were some clues as to how ready New Zealand is to establish a 'green travel zone' and what it might eventually look like.
"Before any final decision will be made by cabinet we'll need to be satisfied that the following conditions have been met," said Ardern. "Once we've met these criteria we anticipate we'll be in a position to open the bubble."
Here's how to do the Transtasman six-step.
1 response framework for when there are cases in Australia is fit for purpose
The recent Brisbane snap lockdown is an example of how quickly things could change.
Both New Zealand and Australia have shown quick reaction to local community outbreaks and the speed with which travel restrictions can be re-imposed. This is further complicated if a local lockdown is declared while there are international visitors present and has raised the prospect of New Zealanders being stranded overseas.
Last week Covid 19 response minister Chris Hipkins referred to the "human cost" of not having a travel bubble, but also the very real costs for travellers of a snap lockdown on either side of the Ditch.
"Ultimately, New Zealanders who travel to Australia will be assuming a degree of risk of being stranded," said Hipkins, "they will have to be able to support themselves."
Similarly should quarantine be re-imposed, Kiwis could be expected to pay between $2722 and $3270 in fees – depending on the Australian state.
Having abandoned a joint approach to a framework for travel restrictions, travellers will have to be mindful of both country's rules and why quarantine-free travel might be halted in either direction.
2 Measures are in place to effectively contact trace travellers from Australia
Contact tracing is hard enough to do properly when it is solely within New Zealand. When you have two countries with two separate contact tracing systems, the complexities are exponential.
Given Australia has no compulsory track and trace system at a federal level, there could be some changes to New Zealand's own track and trace requirements.
Currently New Zealand businesses are required to display QR codes and signage encouraging use of contact tracing, the opening of borders could make sign-in compulsory for visitors too.
Last week the Cook Islands launched a cross-compatible contact tracing app, which shares check in and close contact history data with the New Zealand counterpart. Such a system was designed in anticipation of restriction free travel, using the same development team behind the Ministry of Health's NZ COVID app.
The Herald understands there has been no such cross-border compatibility programme in the direction of Australia.
The Australian COVIDSafe app might extremely similar in function and appearance – relying on QR check-ins and Bluetooth close contact tracing – but it's unlikely that Aussies will be able to use it over here.
3 All technical issues are resolved, including transiting passengers and managed isolation fees
Tracking transiting passengers and MIQ fees create a number of technical questions for any quarantine-free corridor.
The potential for suspension of a quarantine-free travel, could see New Zealanders suddenly having to quarantine on return from a trip to Australia.
This would be inconvenient not only for the travellers but also those running MIQ.
There is currently a total capacity for 4500 MIQ rooms across New Zealand, according to MBIE. The removal of quarantine requirements from Australia would free up around 1800 spaces – or up to 40 per cent.
There are currently waiting periods of up to 16 weeks to book places in MIQ for returning travellers.
However there was a reluctance to fill these rooms with other returning travellers from high-risk countries. Minister Hipkins told media that he "wouldn't guarantee" that spare capacity would be offered to returning travellers from other areas.
Should the travel bubble unexpectedly burst, there would be a sudden increase on demand for rooms.
However, returned New Zealanders will not have to delay a quarantine-free trip to Australia.
While the MIQ website says that New Zealanders who leave the country within 180 days would need to cover fees of up to $3100, those visiting a "quarantine-free travel country during that time, will not be liable for fees for their MIQ stay."
The costs for Australians required to go into managed isolation on this side of the ditch could be higher.
As of last week, the cost for temporary visa holders entering New Zealand was increased to $5,520
4 We have the appropriate regulatory mechanisms in place
'Regulatory mechanisms' is a term as broad as the Tasman Sea is deep. However, considering shared regulation has let down the bubble before now, the legal details could be the making or breaking of a travel deal.
Everything from state borders, entry requirements for other nationals to the proposal of bringing in a third country into the agreement has to be considered. Australia and New Zealand may be committed to one another, but there have been flirtations with periphery travel deals with Singapore or The Cook Islands.
Last month the New Zealand government blamed further delay on Australia's decision to 'move the goal posts'.
"Australia's position shifted so we've had to recalibrate," minister Hipkins, explained during Question Time on 16 March.
5 Airports, airlines and agencies are ready
Auckland Airport has already signalled it is ready and waiting for a Tasman travel bubble. International arrivals have been divided into red and green zones traffic since October, to separate passengers from quarantine-free destinations such as the Cook Islands.
"We'll be fully ready to go subject to any further details being made available by the government on 6 April when they make their decision," airport chief Adrian Littlewood told RNZ, last Friday.
Similarly Air New Zealand, which has been operating one-way quarantine-free flights from New Zealand to Australia and Rarotonga to New Zealand, has announced the imminent launch of new Australian routes with the opening of a travel bubble.
The national carrier said it would be returning to direct flights to Hobart for the first time in two decades. A lead in at least three weeks would be needed to fill seats. However, this might fit with the time-frame being proposed by New Zealand's Cabinet and preparations overseas.
In a statement Tasmanian premier Peter Gutwein anticipated Hobart Airport would be welcoming New Zealanders by the end of the month, with flights "due to begin around Anzac Day."
6 Director General of Health has provided an up to date health assessment.
Lastly, any travel arrangement will require a final bill of health by the good doctor Ashley Bloomfield, whose sign off is required to give the go ahead. This formal check could come closer to the launch of a 'Green zone'.
What passports will I need?
On Easter Tuesday we will be given a glimpse not only of when the Tasman bubble will finally open, but also what it will look like.
Whether this will involve opening the flood gates all at once, or more likely a 'state by state' approach, it's still unclear how the two-way travel agreement will be bridged.
The Department of Internal Affairs has advised New Zealanders to renew passports now, to avoid expected rush to renew travel documents. However, the bigger question is will we need to get new documents, such as health passports, in order to travel.
Tests of IATA 'Vaccine Passports' are set to be trialled between Sydney and Auckland on Air New Zealand planes, next month. However the requirement for some kind of vaccine documentation would be well in advance of any vaccine programme, given Australia's immunisation rate of 2.4 per cent, New Zealand closer to 0.8 per cent.