As South Australia experiences an unwelcome new COVID-19 outbreak, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has conceded there’s very little chance of an operational trans-Tasman travel bubble by Christmas.
Australia and New Zealand are tackling the pandemic with slightly different strategies, leading to an impasse over a border reopening.
Australia is pursuing a suppression strategy, which involves locking down hotspots where cases reach a certain threshold, but New Zealand’s elimination strategy does not allow for the same risk tolerance.
“What’s happening in South Australia only further reinforces the importance of having a good understanding of how Australia intends to manage their internal borders when there are outbreaks,” Ms Ardern said.
“If they have an outbreak but they are instituting strong border controls, then it’s manageable.
“But if they have a tolerance level for community transmission that’s higher than ours, then it is problematic.
“What this underscores is why it’s so important that New Zealand has not rushed into this.”
While Kiwis can travel to New South Wales and the Northern Territory without the need to quarantine for a fortnight, no one entering New Zealand escapes the mandatory isolation period.
Ms Ardern said said she didn’t “have the necessary protections” to give an assurance around a Christmas reopening.
Still, New Zealand is holding out the prospect of her country opening up to one destination soon – the Cook Islands.
The semi-autonomous Pacific nation has deep ties to New Zealand and is without a case of coronavirus during the pandemic.
Kiwi officials are currently on the Cooks, surveying the country’s air and maritime borders, with a view to opening a bubble and restoring the tourism-reliant economy.
Ms Ardern said once the officials gave the green light to an opening, it would take three weeks to get it up and running.
From Thursday, Aucklanders on public transport and all New Zealanders on planes will have to wear masks, along with taxi and Uber drivers.
“These additional precautions are a small price to pay to maintain the economic and social freedoms, we have,” Ms Ardern said.
People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your jurisdiction’s restrictions on gathering limits.
If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at https://sbs.com.au/coronavirus
Johnson rejected what FFA insists was an 11th-hour request from the club for a change to the W-League’s player registration rules to mirror the A-League, where New Zealanders are not counted among the Phoenix’s five permitted foreign players.
The Phoenix have long been pushing for a W-League team and were ready to go for the start of the new season on December 27. They appear to have assumed – like most observers – that the change would be a fait accompli, simply because that’s how it is in the A-League.
FFA’s refusal was met with widespread dismay, particularly in light of Australia and New Zealand’s successful bid to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup and the legacy it is supposed to leave both countries. ‘As One’? Apparently not.
As FFA insiders are at pains to point out, however, a joint-venture tournament is one thing. But FFA and New Zealand Football remain entirely separate organisations, with separate and sometimes competing interests.
And FFA’s primary interest at the moment is fixing the country’s broken development pathways – not helping New Zealand build theirs if it comes at Australia’s expense.
Last month, FFA released a report called the ‘Performance Gap’, which Socceroos coach Graham Arnold described as a “code-killer”. It lays bare why urgent action is needed – in simple terms, the A-League doesn’t offer anywhere near enough match minutes to ensure young Australian players can be competitive internationally.
Another report on the women’s game has been commissioned by FFA, and in a statement, Johnson said the conclusions were very similar: the W-League, with its short 14-game season, offers just 113,444 match minutes to players compared to an average of 291,660 minutes in the other leagues studied around the world.
“To mirror current eligibility rules for the A-League, which have yielded equally if not more alarming development ‘gaps’ for male footballers, without having undertaken a proper analysis and consultation would be irresponsible and most certainly perpetuate the ongoing player development issues in Australia,” Johnson said.
“The development of policy and accompanying regulation must be considered in light of the findings of the player pathways analyses and FFA’s XI Principles for the future of Australian football which have been developed to arrest the player development issues in Australian football and lay the platform for transformation in this space.”
Picking on the Phoenix, to many fans, is a bit like shooting Bambi. Since Gallop’s spray they’ve become one of the A-League’s most compelling teams to watch and as a club, they’re hard to dislike. They’ve given opportunities to players like Olyroos pair Cameron Devlin and Reno Piscopo, the rise of young Kiwi talents like Sarpreet Singh and Liberato Cacace has been captivating, and the sacrifices the team has made post-COVID have been immense.
But behind the scenes, there have been issues between the club and head office. Wellington’s owners, led by chairman Rob Morrison, took FFA to court last month over an outstanding $1 million bill for failing to hit the attendance and TV ratings benchmarks prescribed in their Gallop-era licence agreement.
The case was settled out of court, but tension clearly still remains at the heart of the relationship – even though, according to sources, a new five-year A-League licence extension for the Phoenix has been agreed.
During negotiations, sources say Wellington told FFA they were happy to be seen as an Australian club that just happens to be based in the New Zealand capital to make it easier to gain the relevant approvals from FIFA and the two confederations – Asia and Oceania – that they straddle.
With that, FFA believes, comes a responsibility to the Australian game.
There are three other A-League clubs without a W-League presence – Central Coast Mariners, Macarthur FC and Western United. FFA were happy to put the Phoenix at the front of the queue, but on their terms.
Sources also claim that a major part of the Phoenix’s motivation to get a W-League team over the line this season is because they would have received a $500,000 high-performance grant from the New Zealand government.
FFA won’t budge from their position on the W-League’s foreign rules – in fact, sources say that, if anything, it’s more likely Wellington’s generous A-League registration rules could be wound back to match them.
Gallop viewed the Phoenix primarily through a financial prism. Sources say their continued presence in the A-League comes at a cost to the Australian football economy of roughly $2 million per season – that is, they take out more than they put in, even though neutrals warmly appreciate them.
Johnson is now looking at Wellington through a pure football prism, and what he sees is an inherent opportunity cost that is hobbling Australian football. The A-League and the Phoenix may no longer be under his jurisdiction, but that doesn’t mean FFA won’t be able to shape them both.
Sports news, results and expert commentary delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up to the Herald‘s weekday newsletter here and The Age‘s weekly newsletter here.
Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Rugby Australia and New Zealand Rugby have resolved to stage an exciting six-week trans-Tasman tournament next year following their respective domestic Super Rugby competitions.
The trans-Tasman tournament will feature five teams from each country with the Western Force the big winners, the Perth franchise effectively resurrected as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Featuring 26 games over six straight weeks, the tournament will kick off on May 14 with the final taking place on June 19.
Ending months of negotiations, each Australian team will play every New Zealand side in 25 crossover games before the championship decider.
All teams will play two home games and two away games as well as a ‘Super Round’, where all matches played in round three will be played at the one location, over the one weekend.
The final will be played between the top-two placed teams on the combined competition table with the team who finished first to host the decider.
“This is a truly historic day for rugby in the southern hemisphere, with the first-ever Australian and New Zealand Super Rugby competition,” Rugby Australia boss Rob Clarke said.
“This will generate enormous excitement across both countries with some of the best players in the world set to challenge each other after the conclusion of Super Rugby AU and Super Rugby Aotearoa.”
Friday’s announcement comes in the same week that RA revealed its new $100-broadcast deal with Stan and Nine.
“The Super Round is also ga reat initiative with one lucky city to host all 10 teams on one weekend in a Super Rugby extravaganza,” Clarke said.
“I’d like to thank Mark Robinson and his team at New Zealand Rugby for working so closely with us. Bring on 2021.”
New Zealand Rugby chief Mark Robinson said: “Super Rugby Trans-Tasman is a great result for fans on both sides of the Tasman and is testament to the strength of the relationship between New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia.
“It’s been a testing time for rugby in both countries, but also a chance to re-imagine the game in our part of the world for 2021.”
Initial plans proposed that two or three Australian teams were likely to be invited to play against the five existing New Zealand franchises.
All Blacks coach Ian Foster said in July that the formation of a trans-Tasman competition was “not a charity” and that New Zealand had to do “whatever [it could] to get competitive teams against our teams.
His All Blacks predecessor, Steve Hansen, said New Zealand “have been looking after the Aussies for years” and that “sometimes [Australia] have gone missing” when New Zealand wanted something back.
Former Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan described New Zealand as taking a “master-servant” approach to negotiations.
However, Rugby New Zealand boss Mark Robinson said the agreement showed the strong relationship that exists between Australia and New Zealand.
“Super Rugby trans-Tasman is a great result for fans on both sides of the Tasman and is testament to the strength of the relationship between New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia.
“It’s been a testing time for rugby in both countries, but also a chance to re-imagine the game in our part of the world for 2021.”
No place for Europe-bound South Africa
The 2020 Super Rugby season was curtailed and then cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, with Australia and New Zealand hosting separate, domestic tournaments involving their own franchises.
South Africa’s own domestic competition was left behind, due to its difficulties with the coronavirus pandemic.
That resulted in South Africa pulling out of the Rugby Championship at short notice, reducing the competition to a tri-nations tournament.
The SARU said its decision was forced by New Zealand’s “unilateral” decision to arrange its own competition.
“Our members are excited about the prospect of closer alignment with PRO Rugby Championship and seeking a Northern Hemisphere future, but we would not have been taking this decision but for actions elsewhere,” SARU chief executive Jurie Roux said in a statement.
The franchises might be moving north, but earlier this month it was announced that the world champion Springboks have committed to play in the Rugby Championship until 2030.
Rugby Australia and New Zealand Rugby have confirmed a trans-Tasman tournament that will take place after domestic Super Rugby tournaments next year.
The competition will include a special ‘Super Round’ which sees all five Australia and five New Zealand sides come together to play in the one location.
The tournament will begin on Friday, May 14 and wraps up on June 19, with the games from each round to be played on Fridays and Saturdays.
Vunivalu joins Wallabies
The final will be played between the top two placed teams on the combined competition table.
The side that finishes first outright will gain hosting rights for the decider.
Scroll down to see the full draw
“This is a truly historic day for Rugby in the southern hemisphere, with the first-ever Australian and New Zealand Super Rugby competition,” Rugby Australia interim Chief Executive Rob Clarke said.
“This will generate enormous excitement across both countries with some of the best players in the world set to challenge each other after the conclusion of Super Rugby AU and Super Rugby Aotearoa.
“The Super Round is also great initiative with one lucky city to host all 10 teams on one weekend in a Super Rugby extravaganza.
Lachie Swinton banned 4 games
New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Mark Robinson said: “Super Rugby Trans-Tasman is a great result for fans on both sides of the Tasman and is testament to the strength of the relationship between New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia.
“It’s been a testing time for rugby in both countries, but also a chance to reimagine the game in our part of the world for 2021. The result is an exciting and innovative new competition, which will benefit fans, players, broadcasters and Super clubs.
“We all know how special the rivalry between New Zealand and Australia is when it comes to sport and this tournament will add another exciting chapter. The banter between Rob Clarke and I has already begun and I’m sure fans will feel the same.”
At the bare minimum, Australian clubs anticipate the winner of Super Rugby AU will face the winner of Super Rugby Aotearoa at the end of their 12-week seasons.
But multiple sources have told the Herald Super franchises from both countries want more than just the one crossover match, before a full return to a trans-Tasman tournament in 2022.
Multiple formats have been discussed by clubs for next year, all of which would require free trans-Tasman movement being opened up.
Several formats for an extended cross-over finals are being looked at, and so too is a trans-Tasman knockout competition, which would take place after the respective domestic seasons.
Formats are also being discussed that would see Australian and New Zealand teams play in regular-season competition, albeit within the framework of a shortened season.
One of the formats would see Super Rugby AU and Super Rugby Aotearoa played for a period before two trans-Tasman competitions are run side-by-side, with the 10 Australian and New Zealand franchises split into pools of five.
After playing a round-robin, either the top two from each group could square off in the semi-finals, or the winner of each pool would simply face each other in a grand final.
RA chair Hamish McLennan is a strong advocate for a trans-Tasman competition in 2021 and Highlanders CEO Roger Clark also revealed his thoughts on the concept late last week.
“I think in ’21, you’ll find it will be us and the Australians and in 2022 you’ll find Fiji and a Pasifika team fall into that competition,” Clark said.
Meanwhile, the Wallabies will almost certainly be without Lukhan Salakaia-Loto for the fourth and final Bledisloe Cup Test of the year.
The towering lock suffered an ankle injury in the 43-5 loss to the All Blacks at ANZ Stadium on Saturday. Coach Dave Rennie has called in Cadeyrn Neville as second-row cover.
Rennie will have to choose between veteran Rob Simmons, uncapped Rebels prospect Trevor Hosea or Neville as his replacement for Salakaia-Loto, who was one of the Wallabies’ best ball carriers in the first two Bledisloe Tests.
Sports news, results and expert commentary delivered straight to your inbox each weekday. Sign up here.
Sam is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Fourteen passengers have been detained in Melbourne after they arrived from New Zealand under the trans-Tasman bubble arrangements.
Quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia is currently limited to New South Wales and the Northern Territory
The detained passengers arrived in Sydney before flying to Melbourne
Arrivals from New Zealand have to satisfy health requirements before being allowed into Australia
The ABC understands the passengers flew to Sydney and got a connecting to flight to Melbourne.
Melbourne is currently not accepting international travellers.
Australian Border Force (ABF) has been contacted for comment.
But the Australian Department of Home Affairs says on its website that “quarantine-free travel from New Zealand will initially be to New South Wales and the Northern Territory only. Other states and territories may be added at a later date.”
A spokesperson from the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) said: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is aware of media reports, but we have not been approached in relation to this matter.”
At Sydney Airport there were tears and hugs as loved ones reunited, with many passengers flying one-way.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard described it as a “great day”, but pointed out New Zealanders arriving on Friday would need to prove they are symptom-free and satisfy other health requirements.
There will be a total of 16 flights between the two countries each week, with Jetstar and Qantas joining Air New Zealand and Qatar Airways in advertising the trans-Tasman flights.
In a media statement yesterday, Air New Zealand said fares beyond Sydney were not able to be booked via the airline due to Australian state restrictions.
“Passengers planning to travel interstate beyond New South Wales will need to ensure they have checked state and territory travel restrictions and have the appropriate exemptions/approvals to travel as these continue to change,” the statement said.
Mr McCormack said that was because both jurisdictions impose travel restrictions on places in line with the Commonwealth’s definition of a hotspot — a place with a three-day rolling average of three locally acquired cases per day.
Visitors from across the ditch are only allowed to visit if they haven’t been to a designated hotspot in the last 14 days.
The New Zealand and Australian trans-Tasman travel ‘bubble’ opens next week, but will it deliver the economic results the Government is betting on?
New Zealanders can travel to NSW and the Northern Territory from October 16
New Zealanders are still being advised not to travel overseas and must still quarantine when they get home
Airlines have not seen a huge surge in demand despite the announcement
For starters, it’s not so much a bubble as a one-way quarantine-free trip.
New Zealanders can come to Australia to visit New South Wales or the Northern Territory, but Australians won’t be able to travel to New Zealand.
Kiwis considering travel are, however, still being warned by the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to think again.
“Our travel advice remains that New Zealanders do not travel overseas at the moment,” said an MFAT spokeswoman.
“The opening of the travel bubble will not automatically result in a change of travel advice.”
A quarantine requirement remains enforced when citizens or private residents of New Zealand return home.
They will need to enter and pay for the costs of 14 days in isolation in a quarantine hotel.
That’s expected to stop a substantial amount of people from travelling.
“People on both sides of [the] Tasman have rightly become very cautious, maybe due to the Victorian experience or seeing the adverse experience overseas,” said Arghya Ghosh, professor of economics from the University of NSW.
“For all these reasons I think the effect will be minimal.”
Qantas, Jetstar and Air New Zealand all have flights available but despite the long-awaited opening of borders, the airlines have not seen a huge surge in demand.
“I think it’s fair to say there’s been steady interest, but off a really low base,” a Qantas spokesman said.
Australian Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said as well as a boost for tourism, the bubble would also make it easier for people who wanted to come and work on farms, fruit picking or shearing.
“If governments are banking on this as a cash cow they will be sorely disappointed,” said Mark Berger, director and founder of NZRelo.
He does not think the bubble will be widely used, based on feedback from thousands of his members.
“No they’re not going to use it … people are saying it’s not very useful,” Mr Berger said.
“For New Zealanders, the hotspots are Brisbane and Queensland because of all of the fun parks etc.
“There’s a lot of New Zealanders working in the mines in Queensland and in the oil industry in Perth, Western Australia.
“So there’s no real point.”
Professor Ghosh said the bubble is more likely to aid in forming part of Australia’s new international travel agreements but the rewards won’t be immediate.
“While the economic benefit might be small in the short run, the main benefit, I feel, is in the experiment itself — how far can we open safely without jeopardising the progress that we have made?” he said.
“If COVID-19 doesn’t get worse in any of these three places (NZ, NT, and NSW), then we can open up incrementally.
“If it gets worse, we should have the ability to close down and even if we do not NZ will.
“In that case, we learn some lessons on what to do, or more appropriately what not to do going forward.”
In April, Australia and New Zealand’s coronavirus numbers were once considered low enough that the prospect of a trans-Tasman travel bubble was mooted to keep the twin economies chugging along, albeit at a slower pace.
But the momentum for that idea took a nosedive when the virus slipped out of Melbourne hotels and spread across Victoria.
“One of the things we said as part of our criteria was that anywhere we have quarantine-free travel, they have to be free of community transmission for a period of time, 28 days,” she said.
She added that the idea may be put on the “backburner for several months”.
How will the new idea work?
It’s unclear at this point.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister told the ABC the finer details were still being worked through, and as such, the Government did not have “any further details to share publicly at this stage”.
In the interim, what we can do is look at the standards a new scheme might be held to, such as what an ‘outbreak’ actually means.
The Australian Health Thesaurus defines it as “a sudden increase in occurrences of a disease in a particular time and place”.
Last month, Auckland went back into lockdown after an outbreak was discovered, and presently there is a total of 67 cases on the North Island, according NZ Health Ministry data.
Using the Prime Minister’s rough outline, travellers from New Zealand’s South Island would currently be able to fly to Australia without having to do quarantine on arrival.
But any future bubble scenario would also depend on how geographically wide an outbreak is defined, which may be at the town, city, or regional level.
What’s it like to fly from NZ to Australia now?
Expensive, and sometimes long.
Because of the cap on foreign arrivals in Australia, and the pandemic-induced air travel downturn, airfares have risen significantly.
The pandemic has also led to the demise of Australian budget carrier Tiger, while Virgin Australia has been placed into voluntary administration.
Direct flights between Australian and New Zealand cities have been harder to get onto, presenting some travellers with high fares and long stop-overs.
According to a Google Flights search, getting a seat on the next available one-way flight from Auckland to Sydney in October costs $11,400 with stopovers in Malaysia, and China before landing in Australia.
The average price of the next three available flights was $8,116, at the time of writing.
This contrasts dramatically to prices in February, when Australian carriers and Air New Zealand were locked in a battle to entice people over the Tasman, with some flights from the latter priced as low as $NZ69 ($64).
How are Australians in NZ coping?
Ben, an Australian currently living in New Zealand’s North Island, has been in the country since June, while his partner and young children have been in the country since early March.
The Perth local, who asked the ABC only to use his first name, said his family has been staying with relatives since the Australian travel bans were introduced, and said they only anticipated it would last for a month.
He is one of many Australians abroad currently trying to keep on top of evolving border restrictions and fluctuating flight schedules.
“It would be quite helpful if the airport’s actually had a bit of a register about incoming flights, so people could plan their return flights a bit better,” he said.
One flight to Perth from Auckland flies via Singapore, while others route through Brisbane.
If he took the latter, it would amount to four weeks of quarantine all up, with fortnight-long quarantines in Brisbane and Perth respectively.
“For the young kids, it’d just be a nightmare,” he said.
He suggested Australia should be doing more to make things easier when returning home.
“Why would you not have Australian representation at the airport for any flights [to Australia], where passengers get the nose and swab tests,” he said.
“That tells you if you’re highly transmissible and [authorities] get the results before the flight lands and later can act accordingly.”
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and New Zealand’s Prime Minister’s office were contacted for comment.