Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has hinted at a potential "trans-Tasman bubble" of relaxed border restrictions between New Zealand and Australia if both nations can progress in their response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Peters sat down for a lengthy interview with TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning from his home in Whananaki when he admitted New Zealand's borders won't be as relaxed as they were at the start of the year for "a fair time".
"Until we see, I believe, a worldwide vaccine that is working, our borders are going to be much more closely guarded and much more closely inspected than ever before," Mr Peters said.
However, that tight border security could be relaxed for a few nations in the Pacific if figures for the coronavirus around the region continue to go down.
Mr Peters says there's already discussions in place with our trans-Tasman neighbours for such an engagement.
"Our thing is with Australia, it's almost like we've got a trans-Tasman bubble between our two countries and if the figures keep on going that way, that is a serious possibility.
"We're exploring that as we speak."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern closed New Zealand's borders last month as part of the country's response to the Covid-19 pandemic and has since also enforced a 14-day quarantine for any Kiwis returning from overseas travel.
Approximately 60 people were taken to quarantine facilities yesterday after boarding a Government-organised rescue flight from South America - an effort Mr Peters says both the passengers and New Zealand is paying for.
"We are paying for a lot of it but we've got three different cost measurements depending on how far they're coming but they're paying for a substantial amount of it themselves," Mr Peters said.
"When they can't make it, we make a credit advance available for them to get them on this plane and get them home."
Mr Peters added flights to Europe and other areas are being looked at but the safety of New Zealanders here needs to be thought of as well.