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New Zealand To Allow Returning Kiwis From January 17

New Zealand has announced the first stages of the dismantling of its hard border, beginning with Australia early next year.

From January 17, fully vaccinated Kiwis in Australia will be able to enter New Zealand without having to quarantine.

New Zealanders in other countries will be able to follow suit from February 14, and non-Kiwis can come from April 30.

COVID-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said vaccination rates meant "the time is right to carefully start the reopening of our borders".

"This is about opening the borders in a progressive and safe way," he said.

Currently, overseas New Zealanders must win a place in a quarantine lottery - with limited places available - and spend 10 days in isolation before entering the community.

This has caused much angst, with many locked out of their own country, and with thousands of separated families.

"When it comes to COVID-19, there are often no easy decisions," he said.

"We've often been faced with the task of making the least worst decision ... the border is clearly an example of that."