New Zealand hosts Australian Prime Minister at 1st meeting since outbreak
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) – Growing friction with China and how to reopen borders after the pandemic will likely be among the topics discussed by Australian and New Zealand leaders in their first face-to-face meeting since coronavirus
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) – Growing friction with China and how to reopen borders after the pandemic will likely be among the topics discussed by Australian and New Zealand leaders in their first face-to-face meeting since the coronavirus outbreak has caused the two countries to close their borders.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison arrived at the Queenstown tourist resort on Sunday for an overnight visit. He greeted his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern with a traditional Maori hongi, in which the two hugged each other.
Morrison is the first major world leader to visit New Zealand since the two countries closed their borders last year to contain the virus. Neighbors opened a non-quarantine travel bubble last month, although a recent outbreak of the virus in Melbourne prompted New Zealand to suspend the deal with the state of Victoria.
Morrison’s visit came as New Zealand faced significant flooding in the Canterbury area following heavy rains. Video footage showed a farmer rescued by helicopter from a raging river, while other swollen rivers threatened to flood thousands of homes.
The choice of Queenstown for the meeting was deliberate as New Zealand tries to revive its battered tourism industry. Queenstown has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, although tour operators say they expect a boost from Australian tourists in the upcoming ski season, now that the travel bubble has started.
The changing dynamic with China has been an important topic in both countries.
Australia’s relations with China have deteriorated dramatically. China has blocked some Australian exports after Australia excluded Chinese telecommunications company Huawei from its 5G phone network and called for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus.
New Zealand has also been more open against China on some issues in recent months, although it has so far maintained better relations with the superpower than Australia.
Ardern said she would speak with Morrison about the resumption of the pandemic as well as key regional challenges and security concerns.
“Our relationship with Australia is our closest and most important and it has never been more evident than in these difficult times for the world,” Ardern told reporters.
Nick Perry, The Associated Press