To open or keep the borders closed to tourists was always going to be a polarizing topic for the island.
While some people will want those borders to remain close to tourists, others like the tourism operators and business community, and the government will want the slow reopening of the borders to tourists.
It was no surprise then that the most robust debate at yesterday’s Fono Ekepule would be over the motion of the member from Alofi North Hon. Va’aiga Tukuitonga calling on the government to keep borders closed to all tourists.
What transpired during the debate of this motion also revealed wavering support for the Tagelagi government when five members who would normally vote with the government instead voted with the opposition for the motion to draw the vote eight for and eight against.
Members from Avatele Pita Vakanofiti, Makefu Tofua Puletama, Liku Hon. Pokotoa Sipeli, Hikutavake Opili Talafasi and Toi member Hon. Dion Taufitu joined the opposition members Hon. O’love Jacobsen, Hon. Terry Coe in supporting opposition member Hon. Va’aiga Tukuitonga’s motion.
While those who voted against the closing of borders to tourists were Premier Tagelagi, Minister Crossley Tatui, Minister Tongatule, members for Tamakautonga Ricky Muiaki Makani, member from Vaiea Talaititama Talaiti, member from Hakupu Richie Mautama, the member from Lakepa John Tiakia and the member from Mutalau Maka Ioane.
Missing from the vote were Minister Mona Ainuu and Common Roll opposition member Stan Kalauni who is the owner of the largest car rental company on the island.
The ultimate decision on whether tourists will be allowed into the island and when this will happen will be determined by the Cabinet.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet met this morning with senior health officials and the Disaster council to decide on when quarantine-free travel with NZ will likely commence.
Premier Tagelagi told BCN News yesterday that the government is still looking at April this year to open up to a two-way quarantine free travel (QFT) with New Zealand.
New Zealand allowed one-way QFT with Niue in March of last year.