Bring on the bubble

The line on the new Nor’west Express chairlift on Mt Hutt will go up shortly and it will be ready for the start of the ski season in early June. PHOTO MT HUTT

News that New Zealand will enter into a transtasman bubble with Australia is a timely boost for the skifield town of Methven.
Quarantine-free air travel is set to resume with our neighbours across the ditch on April 19, a decision that will provide a lifeline for businesses devastated by Covid-19, especially those in the tourism sector.
Mt Hutt skifield has long been a drawcard for skiers and snowboarders from Australia and valuable revenue flows into the economy via accommodation bookings and food and drink sales between June and October each year.
Last year the skifield relied solely on domestic tourism and reduced the days it was open because of a shortage of staff and reduction in visitor numbers due to covid restrictions.
The new transtasman bubble was great news and timely boost ahead of the ski season, Mt Hutt skifield manager James McKenzie said.
The new arrangement would mean Australians would come back to the slopes and could also work and travel here.
‘‘It is a welcome boost to tourism around the country after a tough ride over the last year.
‘‘I know businesses in Methven will welcome it with open arms.’’
Australians typically made up between 10 and 15 per cent of visitor numbers on Mt Hutt.
Statistics from Tourism New Zealand show 64 per cent of international visitors who ski while they visit New Zealand are Australian, with ski visitors staying an average of 18 days compared to 16 for regular visitors.
Mr McKenzie said Mt Hutt was still recruiting staff and construction was well under way on the new Nor’west Express on Mt Hutt.
It would be the country’s first eight-seater chairlift and would be open for the new season.
Another project set to open in Methven in August is the brand new Opuke Thermal Pools and Spa, which is expected to be a big drawcard for skiers in the winter and for tourists and locals year round.
Ashburton mayor Mayor Neil Brown said getting Australians back was good for the whole district.
The hot pools was a new attraction and another thing to bring them here.
‘‘If they can open a transtasman bubble and keep safe, I am all for it.’’
Methven resident and Ashburton deputy mayor Liz McMillan said she was ‘‘over the moon‘‘ with the new bubble agreement.
It was great news for hospitality and accommodation providers, who had been doing it tough.
‘‘Australians have been coming to Methven to ski for years and we missed them last year because of covid.
‘‘Winter is the time when Methven operators traditionally make their money, so the bubble agreement is great timing.’’
Ms McMillan said she was looking forward to seeing big winter crowd numbers in Methven and people having fun and enjoying their freedom.
The much-anticipated transtasman bubble has a number of conditions attached to it.
New Zealanders will not be allowed to travel to Australia if they have had a positive covid test result within the last 14 days or are still waiting for the result.
Australians flying here must have spent the last 14 days in Australia and must wear masks on the flight.
A traffic light system will determine whether a covid outbreak in an Australian state requires New Zealand travellers to stay longer than planned.
Travellers will have to pay their own costs if a covid outbreak forces them to stay in Australia.
Flights from an Australian state will be paused if there is a lockdown in that state.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the precautions in place are not based on ‘‘hypotheticals’’, but on things that have happened in the past.
She is warning that quarantine-free travel will not be what it was pre-Covid 19.
‘‘Those undertaking travel will do so under the guidance of flyer beware.’’

-By Mick Jensen