The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has touched down in Queenstown, saying extending the trans-Tasman bubble into the Pacific is a "real possibility".
He's arrived in New Zealand for the the annual trans-Tasman talks, one of Jacinda Ardern's first face to face leaders' meetings since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
The last time the pair met was in Sydney last year - when she was informed New Zealand had its first case of Covid-19, at the "advent of the pandemic", said Morrison.
"And here we are, two countries, some 18 months later that have weathered the Covid, arguably better than any other two countries in the world."
The trans-Tasman bubble will be on the agenda, with Morrison telling reporters "the idea of a bubble that goes beyond New Zealand and Australia is a real possibility".
"Fiji is is going through a difficult time at the moment and we're supporting them to come through that, but whether it's Vanuatu, or the Solomon Islands or Fiji or Tonga, or any of these places, and even supporting up in Timor Leste.
"Now, these are real challenges to overcome, but when it comes to people coming to work in Australia, the seasonal workers programme...or the broader partnership that we have across the Pacific for other purposes - this is why we get together every year."
From left: Jacinda Ardern, Clarke Gayford, Jenny and Scott Morrison. Photo: Visits and Ceremonial Office / Mark Tantrum
He was also asked by an Australian reporter if part of the reason for his trip was because "New Zealand's soft approach to China is splintering our relationship".
It was a regular, annual meeting between Australia and New Zealand, Morrison replied.
"And we work through the issues that are part of that very successful partnership, particularly whether it's the economic partnership or the security partnership, and we work closely on all of those issues."
This was "another opportunity to reinforce our commitment to the security interests of the region and security interests of our bilateral partnership and to advance our economic cooperation for our mutual prosperity and for jobs", he said.
Ngai Tahu welcomed Morrison, his wife, Jenny, and the delegation to Queenstown with a powhiri, including a reo version of the Australian classic Waltzing Matilda, and the traditional jokes about pavlova and winning on the sports field.
Jenny and Scott Morrison at the reception to welcome them to Queenstown. Photo: 2021 Getty Images
Ardern and Morrison made some general comments at a reception at the Skyline, noting the close relationship and their respective responses to Covid-19.
The real business takes place tomorrow with the formal talks, and plenty on the agenda to discuss.
Looming large is China and the growing regional tensions, as well as long-standing trans Tasman issues including the deportation policy and the path to citizenship for New Zealanders in Australia.
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