Covid 19 coronavirus transtasman bubble: PM Jacinda Ardern to front post-Cabinet media conference

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will this afternoon front for questions from the media following the weekly Cabinet meeting with her ministers.

Before she does, however, she is likely to make some comments about the opening of the transtasman bubble with Australia.

Moments before Ardern was scheduled to take the post-Cabinet podium, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced that Australian Foreign Minister Hon Marise Payne will visit New Zealand.

It’s the first face-to-face Foreign Ministers’ consulations since the pandemic began, she said.

Payne’s delegation will be in New Zealand from April 21-23.

“Australia is New Zealand’s closest and most important international partner,” Mahuta said.

The first travel bubble passengers touched down this afternoon and were greeted with songs and dancing at airports.

Many of those arriving are family members who haven’t seen their loved ones in more than a year.

Seamus Matamua and his fiancé Auilagi Vaifale have been waiting patiently, and a little nervously, to see Matamua’s parents arriving from Sydney.

It’s the first time Vaifale will have met them, with the couple marrying in June. “I’m very excited, but a bit nervous,” she told the Herald.

Ardern is likely to touch on the reunification this afternoon.

She is also expected to be pressed on the Government’s split migrant family announcement.

This morning Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi revealed new border exemption rules – he said this would help reunite “hundreds” of families.

The news will come as welcome to many, including some of those who rallied outside Parliament earlier this month, urging the Government to “be kind” and allow their family members into the country.

But Faafoi this morning said there would still be “thousands” to whom the exemptions would not apply.

“We absolutely acknowledge that there will be still some people having to live in difficult situations because of the border closures,” Faafoi said, adding that “we have to draw the line somewhere”.

The new rules apply to the family of critical health workers with families still overseas, as well as a “small number” of other highly skilled workers.

A new exemption is also being created for the families of temporary visa holders, who had a visa to come to New Zealand but had not arrived before the border closed last year.

To be eligible for these new rules, the family member currently in New Zealand must have more than 12 months remaining on their visa.

They can begin applying for the exemption from April 30.

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