The newly-announced travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia has been described as 'a blessing' for Griffith's Pacific Islander communities.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced this week Australians travelling to New Zealand would no longer need to enter mandatory quarantine for 14 days from April 19.
Minister of Griffith's Tongan church Iki Katoanga said the news was cause for celebration for the hundreds of pacific islanders in Griffith with family living in New Zealand.
This bubble is a blessing and it's going to make things a lot easier to connect with our loved ones back home.Iki Katoanga, Griffith Tongan church minister
"For most of the Tongan and Samoan community here in Griffith, the pathway to Australia goes through New Zealand, and so we have many friends and family who stayed there while we came to Australia," Mr Katoanga said.
"It has been very tough during COVID-19 because anyone going back to see their family had to go through 14 days in quarantine, which most people here in Griffith could not afford."
"This bubble is a blessing and it's going to make things a lot easier to connect with our loved ones back home."
Mr Katoanga himself has an aunt and "dozens of cousins" in Auckland he hasn't seen since May 2019.
"It's like Christmas ... I have definitely missed them all a lot."
The previous restrictions had meant those with loved ones in New Zealand who had become suddenly ill were not able to be there for their final moments.
Mr Katoanga described this as "heartbreaking".
"I truly believe that what Australia and New Zealand did with the restriction has benefited us in the long-term, but it was definitely hard and the bubble and the easing of restrictions is definitely a blessing," he said.
As well as helping those with family in New Zealand, the bubble will also help islanders travelling back to their home nations through New Zealand, Mr Katoanga said.
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