New Zealand’s new COVID-free status won’t rush Jacinda Ardern into starting a trans-Tasman travel bubble.

The prime minister is slashing New Zealand’s coronavirus restrictions after learning her country has no active cases of COVID-19.

However, border controls remain in place as the primary weapon against the return of the virus.

“Our border is critical,” she said on Monday.

“The reason that New Zealanders, as of tomorrow, will be able to move around with freedom that very few other countries in the world have is because we are maintaining those restrictions at the border.”

Ms Ardern said a country would need to be “in a similar position to us” before the resumption of travel, confirming Australia is still her choice to be first cab off the rank – but without providing a deadline.

“We haven’t put an arbitrary timeline on it because that simply comes down to a judgment that does rely on daily data,” she said.

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“This will be two-way decision making with anyone with whom we’re opening our borders up with.

“No one wants to jeopardise the gains New Zealand has made and so we will be very, very careful when we make those decisions.”

A number of Pacific Island nations, which rely on international tourism for huge chunks of their economic activity, have requested to jump Australia in the queue, but Ms Ardern maintains the focus is on establishing a trans-Tasman link.

“We will make sure that when we work up a framework for making those decisions we are keeping in mind that our Pacific neighbours within the realm – Nieu, the Cook Islands and Tokelau,” she said.

AAP