Trans-Tasman travel much easier and cheaper.


An official visit to Australia by Prime Minister John Key will be marked by the announcement of measures to make trans-Tasman travel much easier and cheaper.

It will be a big step towards a common border between the two countries, a goal Mr Key set himself soon after winning the last election.

Details will be revealed at a joint press conference Mr Key is due to hold with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Thursday and the Government has not released anything ahead of that.

However, Melbourne newspaper The Age has reported that under the new regime flying from Australia to New Zealand will become almost as cheap and easy as domestic travel.

The newspaper said Thursday’s announcement would include the potential scrapping of departure taxes, ending duplication of quarantine, customs and security checks and allowing planes to land at domestic terminals.

New Zealand government sources said the announcement would show progress was being made towards streamlining travel and the changes would be introduced in stages.

The announcement will not indicate that a new regime is ready to be put in place in the immediate future, NZPA understands.

The most important change would be recognition by each country of the other’s security, immigration and quarantine checks, a system similar to that which operates between European Union countries.

The tourism industry has been lobbying strongly for much easier trans-Tasman travel, which is likely to boost visitor numbers both ways.

Mr Key, who also holds the tourism portfolio, has been working closely with the sector to find ways to increase the flow.

The timing of the introduction of the new procedures will depend on how long it takes to integrate the systems, and although Mr Key wants it in place by Christmas it could take longer than that.

He will fly from Wellington to Melbourne on Tuesday and spend Wednesday in the city, attending functions and making a speech before leaving for Canberra where there will be a ceremonial welcome at Parliament.

He will hold the joint press conference with Mr Rudd on Thursday morning and deliver a speech at the National Press Club in the afternoon.

On Friday he flies to Sydney for a series of business meetings and the Australia-New Zealand Leadership Forum dinner.

Mr Key will be at the Bledisloe Cup rugby match on Saturday and flies home on Sunday.