Is it time to ditch the New Zealand travel declaration?

Is it time to ditch the New Zealand travel declaration?

The reaction after my form was closed and I had to follow the two-step process to get back in.

Brook Sabin/Stuff

The reaction after my form was closed and I had to follow the two-step process to get back in.

Brook Sabin is a travel reporter for Stuff.

OPINION: “Please allow 40 minutes to complete this form.” I’m sitting in Australia trying to get permission to enter my own country through a process that feels like “formageddon”.

Before boarding a flight to Aotearoa, you must have a New Zealand Traveler Pass – which is obtained through a multi-step Covid form known as the New Zealand Traveler Declaration.

I am warned at the start that I need to provide accurate information or I may not be able to board.

Many countries introduced such measures when the borders were first opened, primarily to keep track of pre-departure tests and vaccination status.

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It comes as international travel is back on the cards for many.

However, you no longer need a pre-departure test to enter New Zealand. And Kiwis can travel into their own country without needing a vaccination card. So requiring New Zealanders to fill out this form is bureaucratic nonsense.

After a couple of trips to Australia, everyone I spoke to seemed annoyed by the process. Even the check-in agent said, “I’m surprised they make you do this to enter your own country.” The main issue people raised, apart from it being a waste of time, was the elderly who struggle with things like connecting their phone to Wi-fi, let alone filling out online tax returns.

The New Zealand Traveler's Declaration must be completed by anyone traveling to New Zealand by air.

Screenshot

The New Zealand Traveler’s Declaration must be completed by anyone traveling to New Zealand by air.

The first time I filled out the form it took about 25 minutes – because I skimmed everything. The second time I skipped all the text and it took 14. But for someone who reads everything, and collects all the documents, I can see why they warn about 40 minutes.

Twice I managed to exit my form by accident, only to be told I had a seven-digit reference number waiting for me in my emails to help me get back in. Once I had entered it, a new email was sent to me with a temporary code.

Some older people struggle with phones and apps. I can only imagine the difficulty of copying codes in the email app, then going back to the browser to enter them.

The form requires passport details, “proof of vaccination, if required”, a 14-day travel history, flight details, emergency contact details, your contact details and an email address.

But, hang on. New Zealanders do not need vaccination proof or pre-departure testing to participate, so the only useful information is a 14-day travel history.

However, the three-page customs form you fill out on the plane collects just that. In fact, it asks for a 30-day travel history.

The form is arguably justified for foreign tourists if we want to continue asking them to provide a proof of vaccination to enter the country. (Or, maybe like Australia we should lift all entry restrictions for Covid.)

After arriving in New Zealand you must take a RAT test on day zero and day five or six. If any of these are positive, you must take a PCR test. Surely, if the point of the form is to track new variants of Covid, this is the time we collect all the information – the time we are positive.

When Aucklanders were finally released from their Delta lockdown in late 2021, they didn’t need a form to travel to the South Island. Of course not; they are kiwis.

But we get Kiwi to fill one out to get home. It is time we followed Australia, and much of the world, and put it in the Covid-19 coffers.

It was so liberating to fly to Australia without the Covid red tape. I can’t say the same about coming home.

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