21 Aug 2009

Trans-Tasman travel to be easier and faster

10:17 am on 21 August 2009

New Zealand and Australia have confirmed new rules aimed at making trans-Tasman travel for most passengers faster and easier.

The countries have also agreed to make trans-Tasman investment simpler and are considering setting up a joint Anzac army contingent.

The announcements were made following a meeting between New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Australian leader Kevin Rudd in Canberra on Thursday.

Mr Key says New Zealand will stop checking every bag coming into the country.

Passengers arriving on either side of the Tasman will be able to use Smartgate kiosks to scan their passports and avoid queuing in immigration lines.

This will be introduced to airports progressively, beginning for arrivals at Auckland International Airport in December this year. Wellington and Christchurch will follow next year. The Smartgate system will cost almost $40 million.

New Zealand will also introduce a new system to only target visitors who pose a high risk to the country's biosecurity - meaning many will bypass the current process of having their baggage X-rayed.

However, Mr Key says that does not mean biosecurity checks will be weakened. There will also be an increase in the instant biosecurity infringement fine, from $200 to $400.

Biosecurity Minister David Carter says trans-Tasman travellers arriving in New Zealand airports will notice visible changes to biosecurity screening by the end of March 2010.

Anzac force to be considered

Australia and New Zealand are to investigate setting up an Anzac army contingent.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says defence chiefs have been instructed to examine the idea.

Mr Rudd says given the fact the militaries often work together closely, it could make sense to have a more formal arrangement for responding to security emergencies.

Mr Rudd says it is a useful move, as both armed forces have common training doctrines and much of their equipment is compatible.

Mr Key and Mr Rudd also announced a substantial lift in the threshold at which investors will need approval to invest in Australia and New Zealand.

The leaders also discussed regional issues and climate change policy.

Mr Key says it remains his ambition to create a common border between New Zealand and Australia, but there are a lot of issues which need to be addressed before the idea can become a reality.

On Friday, the Australian and New Zealand governments will hold a joint cabinet meeting in Sydney.