A new approach to border management must be taken to reconnect the country to the world, says a paper from former Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe, former prime minister Helen Clark and former chief science adviser Sir Peter Gluckman.
The trio’s Re-engaging New Zealand with the World questions how long the current border closures, in line with the country’s ‘keep it out, stamp it out’ Covid-19 strategy, could continue. It also questions the price of the strategy, which is cast as taking on both New Zealand Inc and, indirectly, New Zealanders.
Instead, they argue that a new long term strategy must be developed to return New Zealand to global connectivity.
The paper, published today, said: “While we pin our hopes on a vaccine, it could be much further away than the hype suggests. Can we afford to wait out another year, two years, or even more in almost total physical isolation?”
At what cost is the country prepared to pay for this strategy, asks the trio.
“This is not just affecting tourism and export education, but also the many ways in which New Zealand projects and leverages its place in the world.”
The authors added that the development of a long-term strategy was even more relevant given the receding hopes of a trans-Tasman bubble in the near future.
“We need to be thinking about defining our longer-term strategy. Is New Zealand prepared to hold itself in its state of near-total isolation for the indefinite future? Even opening the trans-Tasman bubble looks further away than it did a month ago with resurgent community spread in at least one Australian state,” the report stated.
“The hoped-for early links with Singapore have similarly evaporated. Are there Pacific countries that we could now open up to with green lanes? Some other countries are starting to create green lanes, but they have not adopted the elimination strategy. The latter places higher expectations on the system.”
It urged a strategic analysis that was “transparent and preferably developed through a collaborative process, because whatever is done will change the risk landscape significantly”.
“Many stakeholders continue to be at the mercy of such decisions, and those stakeholders are not just businesses, they are indirectly every New Zealander.”
The New Zealand Aviation Coalition, which represents a group of core aviation service providers, welcomed the report.
“Kiwis are understandably cautious, but it is important that they talk about this and think broadly about what their and the country’s future might look like if a vaccine for Covid-19 is some years away,” NZAC chair Justin Tighe-Umbers said.
He added NZAC was committed to working with Government to help ensure people could safely cross the country’s border.
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