Covid-19 Update and the future of New Zealand tourism

I'm currently down in New Zealand, at the end of a 3-month stay, returning to my home in the US in December. It's been an interesting experience, from the 2-weeks of quarantine at an Auckland hotel on arrival, to living in a country where Covid-19 is no longer in the community. It's surprising how long it takes to adjust to live in a place where masks are no longer seen when out and about.
Updated January 11, 2021.

It's now nearly 8 months since any cases of Covid-19 has been found in the New Zealand community. 

However, new cases are regularly found among recent arrivals, discovered through testing while they are in mandatory 2-week quarantine on arrival in New Zealand.

Meanwhile, the borders remain closed to all but New Zealand passport holders and permanent residents.

The country remains on Level 1, the lowest category of four, and this includes - 

Face coverings on all domestic flights and on public transport in Auckland.

Face coverings legally must be worn:

  • on all public transport to, from and through Auckland — including on long-distance bus and train journeys, as well as Auckland ferries
  • on domestic flights throughout New Zealand
  • by Auckland taxi and ride-share drivers — while it’s not compulsory for passengers to wear them, we strongly encourage you to.

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Air New Zealand Airbus A320 neo

The Future of travel to New Zealand

I've also been taking a look around the country at what's been happening in New Zealand tourism.

Of course the closing of the borders and resulting loss of overseas visitors has made it an extremely difficult time for the local tourist industry. A huge effort has gone into promoting New Zealand to New Zealanders, encouraging them to see more of their own country and this has been very successful. But in a country with a population of under 5-million this is obviously not a long term solution.

Since March there have been ongoing attempts to create exclusive travel "bubbles" between New Zealand and selected countries, those that have demonstrated success in controlling Covid-19. 

Allowing Australian tourists to visit New Zealand has been the main focus of these efforts, but to date, random outbreaks of the virus in some Australian states has seen the implementation of a "bubble" stymied. 

Once Australia is up and running, the next potential "bubble" will probably be between New Zealand and selected Asian countries like Singapore and Taiwan who have also had success in controlling their Covid-19 outbreaks, followed by South Pacific islands like Fiji and Samoa.

Unfortunately, allowing visitors from Europe and the US will be at the bottom of the list and the current thinking, even with a vaccine in place, is that we won't be seeing visitors from the US or Europe before November 2021 at the very earliest.

So when will visitors from the US be able to visit New Zealand?

Of course there are too many variables at work that would make any announcement of a definitive opening date too risky to consider.

However, based on the conversation I had with government and travel leaders during my 3-month stay in New Zealand, I believe that November 2021 is the very earliest that could be considered. 

Here's just one example of the challenges ahead. It seems certain that when the borders reopen, the New Zealand government will insist on arrivals carrying a verified document attesting that they have been injected with the Covid-19 vaccine. Will the US government have completed their vaccination program by November and have the system in place to issue verifiable Covid-19 documents? I very much doubt it.

I'll finish this blog on a cheerier note with a just released story as reported by national newspaper Stuff.

Multimillion-dollar slice of Kiwi paradise given to charity

A multimillion-dollar slice of New Zealand’s most spectacular landscape is being donated to charity to protect it from development and ensure it remains unspoiled for future generations.

Queenstown couple Dick and Jillian Jardine are giving 2,000 acres of their Remarkables Station to the Queen Elizabeth II National Trust (QEII), which is dedicated to protecting the country’s natural heritage.

The pristine land sits at the foot of the Remarkables mountain range and skirts the edge of Lake Wakatipu, some of the most recognizable scenery in the country.

Remarkables Station sits between the Remarkables mountain range and Lake Wakatipu. 

The Remarkables Station sits between the The Remarkables mountain range and Lake Wakatipu.

The trust will hold the freehold land in perpetuity, ensuring the land and biodiversity on the property is protected.

The property will officially change hands and a QEII covenant will be placed on the title in 2022,100 years after the Jardine family first bought it.

It is leased as a working farm, and that will continue for the foreseeable future.

Jillian Jardine said the biodiversity and visual amenities of the land were precious, and that they never wanted any housing or development to be allowed on it.

“It’s worth a lot of money, but we don’t need it,” she said, declining to put a value on it.

In 2016 Dick and Jillian Jardine gave a four-hectare property to the University of Otago, which was formally named Hākitekura last year.SUPPLIED

Dick and Jillian Jardine

In 2016 Dick and Jillian Jardine gave a four-hectare piece of their property to the University of Otago, which was formally named Hākitekura last year.

The property was purchased by Dick Jardine’s grandfather in 1922 and the family have farmed sheep, cattle and, more recently, deer, on the station.

Dick and Jillian Jardine took over the farm about 30 years ago and have since sold significant sections for commercial development including the Jacks Point golf course and subdivision, and the exclusive Homestead Bay development.

A 3-D view of Remarkables Station showing the Jardine Boulders, which are already protected under a QEII covenant.SUPPLIED
A 3-D view of Remarkables Station showing the Jardine Boulders, which are already protected under a QEII covenant.

The couple have become known for their philanthropic gestures, including extensive support of local arts organizations. In 2016 they gifted their 10-acre Woolshed Bay property to the University of Otago's Foundation Trust.

It is being developed as a research retreat for academics.

They earlier put a QEII covenant in place on part of the station known as the Jardines’ Boulder Field, where large boulders, some the size of buses, are popular for sight-seeing and rock-climbing.

Dick Jardine said the family was delighted to pass a large piece of Remarkables Station into QEII’s care.

“Having QEII as the caretaker of this property gives us the comfort and assurance to proudly pass over this gift for all New Zealand to enjoy and appreciate.”

The 900ha of Remarkables Station will be overseen by the Queen Elizabeth II National Trust (QEII), which is dedicated to protecting the countrys natural heritage.


The QE II National Trust

The 2,200 acres of Remarkables Station will be overseen by the Queen Elizabeth II National Trust (QEII), which is dedicated to protecting the country's natural heritage.

QEII chairman Bruce Wills said the gift to New Zealand was “extraordinarily generous”.

Future ownership of the “iconic” property was a huge responsibility for the trust.

“It is also an exciting opportunity for us to demonstrate the integration of pastoral farming, conservation, public access and landscape protection on such a prominent and accessible site,” he said.

It is not the first tract of Wakatipu land to be placed in the care of the trust.

Some of the 53,000 hectares of land included in the Mahu Whenua covenants.

Some of the 53,000 hectares of land included in the Mahu Whenua covenants.

In 2014, music producer Mutt Lange – the former husband of country music star Shania Twain –invested 13,000 acres of land with the trust, creating the largest private covenant in New Zealand.

The covenants cover most of the Motatapu, Mount Soho, Glencoe and Coronet Peak Stations, which sit between Queenstown and Wānaka.

Reporter Debbie Jamieson, Stuff Newspaper 11:05, Nov 25 2020

Lindsay Barron

Lindsay Barron • Nov 22, 2020