In another case of theory versus reality, Tourism Minister Stuart Nash is telling us we’re open as a country, but tourism groups and others will tell you – we’re not really.
The thing holding us up? The Covid testing regime our government insists on keeping in place.
The problem with it is twofold.
One, we are one of the few countries left in the world still doing this, and two, it’s bureaucratically heavy and administratively cumbersome. Travel is logistically challenging enough, we don’t need additional barriers and hoops to jump through. I don’t know of anyone who has travelled recently whose come back and had a favourable word to say about it, in fact quite the opposite. They say it’s a nightmare and given that, we’re not really fully ‘open’ are we?
Open means door open, come on in, no barriers. This is more a case of – hey we’re open but if you could just get this supervised Covid test, download this result, add this app, load it in there, send it to the other app, keep a QR code handy, take these RAT’s for some more testing while you’re here, and yep.. come on in. Not quite how it works.
My brother has travelled three times internationally since the border opened, and he says New Zealand is by far the worst country to get into in terms of its complicated entry requirement system. He said he didn’t know how anyone over 50 years old could work it out it’s so convoluted, you virtually need a degree in IT to decipher it.
He also said the bureaucracy around it seems to be getting worse not better. As in, they haven’t streamlined it or responded to customer complaints to change it or simplify it.
There are also several forms needed to fill out before you even board your plane, all adding to your time and stress to just get in or out of the country. And that’s before we get to people who may be travelling long haul and find their expensive supervised negative test is no longer valid once they actually touch down in New Zealand. It makes no sense.
I interviewed Air NZ's Greg Foran the other day, he described our border entry requirements as a hassle and an impediment to travellers, and he hopes the Government gets rid of it soon. Unfortunately, though, the Government’s timeframe is never really in line with commercial imperatives, it moves at a somewhat glacial pace.. and though it says it will consider removing the barriers ‘at some point’, no one knows when that is.
The PM says it's ‘constantly under review’, but then she also said that about our never-ending lockdowns and traffic lights. David Seymour was not wrong when he said everything this Government does takes an ‘Ardernity’. So if you’re banking on this Government moving faster to help business and travellers, then you’re going to be disappointed.
In the meantime, if you were weighing up coming here, versus say Fiji or Australia where there’re no entry requirements, and you knew getting into New Zealand involved a strict and costly testing regime, within a strict timeframe, which would you choose?
Kate Hawkesby is a political broadcaster on Newstalk ZB - her articles can be seen HERE.
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