On Responsibility For This Most Recent Covid Cross-Border Contretemps


Late Tuesday night, it was confirmed that a traveler from NSW with Covid-19 had boarded a flight to New Zealand and spent a weekend in Wellington. This is, obviously, not great – although a study of the causation of this occurrence is, perhaps, revealing.

Because even though the problem is here, and is our problem now – I am not sure that we really caused it. Well .. most of us, anyway.

It would be nice if persons who’d been shrilly advocating for a bubble with Australia would exercise personal responsibility.

However, there’s no political points in that, so no doubt they’ll blame Jacinda.

For something that’s NSW’s fault and we gave up control over.

This is the issue with The Bubble. We gave up our ability to exercise control over the situation – instead parceling out responsibility and reliance to several other governments we felt we could trust as collaborative partners in this sphere.

Some Australian states, like Victoria, don’t appear to have been too bad at this – when they have an outbreak, they do something about it; and our biggest risk comes from people attempting to avoid the “Doing Something” who then jump on planes from elsewhere in Oz.

However, it’s been clear for some time now that New South Wales has a rather .. different modus operandi – and prefer to avoid heavier intervention control measures for as long as possible.

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Which is quite different to how we do things – or how we want (them) to do things.

It has been said that a true team is only as strong as its weakest member. We’re now no longer the ‘team of five million’ . We’re the ‘team of two countries, and eight state/territory governments’.

And one of these, frankly, has dropped the ball.

As has been pointed out, with less than two dozen attested cases out there in NSW, in amidst a population of more than eight million (and far fewer mid-late last week when this person began to travel here) … it’s either phenomenally bad luck that a Covid-positive person managed to get on a flight to New Zealand from there …

… or the true level of Covid prevalency in NSW is rather higher than has been assayed via official testing, and that state government is notably less in control of their situation than they’ve lead us (and perhaps even lead themselves) to actually believe.

Now it can be argued, I think, that our Government did not “go hard, go early” as applies cutting off travel from New South Wales as soon as it became apparent that there was community spread there.

Although they’d have been pilloried had they done so for “unfairness” and “overreaction” [although what else is new], as there were literally only a handful of cases attested in NSW in the 2-3 days before the covid-positive person got on a plane to NZ.

We took NSW at its word that it had its outbreak contained – and that there would therefore be no unreasonable levy of risk for us to continue operating our bubble at that time.

We then made our own call yesterday – potentially before it was confirmed that a Covid-19 positive passenger had already travelled here (the announcement came literally a few minutes out from when Australia reportedly notified New Zealand about the case that’d been here) – to suspend the travel bubble for three days as an interim pause due to NSW’s evident escalating circumstances.

That has unquestionably been the right decision to make – and it is just unfortunate that it was not made earlier.

Although, as I say – due to the numbers involved in NSW’s outbreak, it would have been very difficult indeed to actually have set out the case for suspending the bubble early on enough in proceedings for it to actually have made a difference here.

If one were to actually attempt proactive prevention of this kind to its actually-efficacious extent, then one might as well just auto-suspend travel with any Australian state or territory as soon as they report a single community case. Or even before then, since by the time community transmission is picked up, there can already have been any number of persons infected with the virus and potentially carrying it on further into their local communities of operation or destination-locale.

And at that point, you begin to wonder what the point of even having a ‘travel bubble’ in the first place was supposed to be.

Which might be no bad thing, considering only a minority of Kiwis were actually that keen on the idea to begin with when the tourism industry and Opposition were attempting to prod our Government into premature action in enacting one, many months ago now.

After all, I am not entirely sure it’ll prove to have been ‘worth it’ to get some few Australian tourists coming over here for a weekend away and visiting Te Papa (now closed as a ‘location of interest’) if the cost to our nation proves to be a city-wide lockdown of Wellington, etc.


  1. Some people just don’t care about all the rest and just want a frivolous weekend away in the middle of a pandemic. The Rimmer would be proud of him for using his right of freedom and all that. If this gets out of control the NZ Gov’t will be blamed for doing a job they can’t win. Where’s all this personal responsibilty that the Rimmer always harping on about? Close the border and save our peoples health. Great article Curwen.

    • Rimmer is a plastic politician. Gifted a place in parliament and never earnt his place at the precipice. When asked if he knew Muller was retiring from politics his arrogant snipe and childish response was “Oh I didn’t know that. I thought he left a long time ago”.
      If National were any chance of regaining power, the first thing to do would be to cut the umbilical cord to ACT.
      Rimmers policies on covid-19 would’ve left thousands dead.

  2. Well said Curwen, a very balanced summary.
    I believe not only have the public become complacent our border controllers have also. If the strategy is ‘go hard, go early’ then Wellington should have been put at Level 3.

  3. News out today that UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock was caught breaching his own Covid restrictions by meeting with his mistress, who herself is under investigation for her placement in a government role. This after Hancock was investigated for having a financial stake in the covid medical supply chain. Covid restrictions, mandates, warnings, advisories, they mean nothing when there is one rule for the lawmakers and their elites and another for the general public. And the whole campaign is thrown into disrepute before we even start pushing back on the claims by ‘the experts’ and ‘the science’ (rammed home with a daily dose of Michael Baker here in NZ). And the public is expected to take their vaccine if not by their own volition but through the incessant campaigning by the medical industrial complex, but we are not allowed to even know what is in this medicine (our food has a list of ingredients and components listed on the tin). I spent two decades working in a laboratory and we relied on Material Safety Data Sheets to identify exactly what chemicals we were dealing with, their compatibility with other substances, their storage and their disposal and treatment for contact and adverse effects. None of this is being provided by vaccine manufacturers apart from the brand name so this goes against the basic principles of industrial science even at the simplest level (this vaccine rollout is in actual fact a real time global clinical trial, the process which is supposed to happen before release of pharmaceuticals). Or is the public expected just to sit down, shut up, take their medicine and let the adults do their thing.

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