18 August 2009

Cheap flights to New Zealand possible with Australia immigration changes

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Cheap flights between Australia and New Zealand and a relaxing of immigration measures is expected to increase the attractiveness of travel between the two countries.

Australia immigration

A change in Australian immigration and New Zealand immigration policy could see cheap flights between the two countries and a change in border control practices.

The move will also mean British nationals emigrating to Australia or New Zealand and young people on an New Zealand or Australian working holiday will be able to more freely travel between the two countries.  

Bruce Buchanan, chief executive of budget airline Jetstar, said a common border arrangement between Australia and New Zealand would cut air fares by at least 30 per cent, saving passengers about $100 for a return trip, or $60 one way.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key will this week announce new efforts to streamline trans-Tasman travel.

Potentially the efforts will include scrapping departure taxes, duplication of quarantine, customs and security checks and allowing planes to land at domestic terminals.

The plan, which is strongly backed by the airline and tourist industries, could cut fares by as much as 30 per cent, as long as the two countries can resolve quarantine, security, biosecurity and logistical problems.

In March, talks between Mr Rudd and Mr Key produced a statement that the two leaders were working towards an agreement within a year.

"We've decided rather than just have it languish in never-never land, to bring it into decision-making territory," Mr Rudd said.

Mr Rudd's spokesman confirmed that since March "officials have been taking this work forward" and the topic would be on the agenda when Mr Key arrived in Australia this week.

Under the proposal, people leaving Australia for New Zealand would be exempt from the $47 passenger movement charge. The two countries would also recognise each other's security, immigration and quarantine checks, effectively setting up a "high ring fence" similar to that in the European Union.

Tourism and Transport Forum managing director Christopher Brown said Australia and New Zealand should be considering "the harmonisation of just about everything in the long term, but surely we can start with a common border approach''.

"Surely, we are able to harmonise our customs, quarantine and immigration and save both sets of taxpayers a lot of money and both sets of passengers a whole lot of hassle," Mr Brown said.


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