A travel bubble loophole, which theoretically could see Australian travellers go further than New Zealand to explore a third country, is not a thing. To be fair, we never said that anyone should take advantage of the border oversight, but if anyone was planning to do so, a new law would indicate it’s a very, very bad idea with serious consequences.
Where previously, Border Force had no real protocol in place, an amendment to the legislation now means that anyone who travels to New Zealand with the intention to fly onto another destination could be heavily fined or face jail time.
“A person who intentionally engages in conduct that contravenes a requirement or a direction commits a criminal offence punishable by a maximum penalty of imprisonment for five years and/or a fine of 300 penalty units ($63,000),” the legislation reads.
The only instance for which a traveller would be able to fly to another foreign country is for “a compassionate reason or because the individual required urgent medical treatment that was not reasonably available in New Zealand or Australia”, according to 9News.
Compassionate reasons include a death or serious illness of a close family member.
From midnight on Sunday, April 18, the borders will open and itchy-footed travellers will be able to go overseas once more, whether to explore New Zealand’s lesser-known destinations or to hit the slopes.
While other bubbles with neighbouring countries are in discussions, so far, it’s the only place Australians are allowed to go without an exemption from the Australian Government, but a loophole in the trans-Tasman bubble agreement means you could feasibly go further.
You see, Australian Border Force requires special permissions for travellers to leave the country, but New Zealand’s does not. What this means is that once the travel bubble commences, Aussie travellers to New Zealand could theoretically continue flying to a third country. A quick look at departing flights would indicate you may be able to go to Singapore, Hong Kong or Japan.
“Currently, New Zealand does not prevent Australian citizens leaving New Zealand and travelling onwards overseas, however anyone arriving into Australia or New Zealand from any other country must enter into quarantine or mandatory isolation as directed by the relevant government departments and health authorities,” a spokesperson for Australia’s Border Force told Traveller.
According to the publication, an exemption would still be needed if an Australian traveller wanted to transit through New Zealand to a third destination, but there’s no real protocol around this as of yet. Likely New Zealand’s Border Force would not stop someone who had a connecting flight to another country, as its Government will not prevent Australians from leaving.
The loophole is not without its flaws though. For one, it’s pretty sneaky and can’t be called completely safe. Many travel insurers do not cover COVID-19 infection, and so it’s risky, to say the least.
Second, returning home could be immensely challenging, not to mention hugely expensive. Many Australians are still stuck overseas with consistently cancelled flights, and anyone who does manage to nab a ticket can be paying up to 10 times the price of a standard fare.
Once you were to arrive, you’d still have to front up $3000 to undergo mandatory hotel quarantine, and even if you come back through New Zealand, you’d have to quarantine there too before flying back into Australia.
Look, it’s not something we’d recommend and when it comes down to it, if it was safe to holiday in a destination other than New Zealand right now, we’d likely be able to. Best to wait it out and explore our own backyards for now.