WELLINGTON, July 7 (Reuters) - New Zealand wants to set up a 'travel bubble' with Australia in order to host trans-Tasman sporting events, such as rugby union's Bledisloe Cup, later this year but safety remains paramount, the country's Sports Minister said on Tuesday.
Cross-border competition was brought to a halt in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic but both countries have said they are keen to restart sporting contests.
"I absolutely want to see that happen," New Zealand's Sports Minister Grant Robertson told reporters on Tuesday. "Like all New Zealanders I want to see sports teams travel here, alongside tourists and business people as well.
"But as the Prime Minister was discussing yesterday, this is a two-way street (and) ... any decision has to ensure that the safety of New Zealanders is kept at the forefront of our minds."
Several sporting codes have been working on hosting trans-Tasman matches later this year, with the annual Bledisloe Cup series between the All Blacks and Wallabies tentatively pencilled in for October, local media have reported.
Robertson said officials would continue to work on setting up the bubble, but added there was no reason why Australian teams could not seek exemptions to New Zealand entry restrictions.
"I'm sure they can apply but we have to be very careful about how we manage that," Robertson said.
"We very much want this to happen but we've got to do it alongside the other pressures that are on us in terms of managed isolation and quarantine."
New Zealand, which has had no community transmission for more than two months, has 22 active cases, all from returning citizens who went into quarantine on arrival.
The Australian state of Victoria has suffered a spike in new infections and its borders with neighbouring states are being closed while its largest city Melbourne is headed for lockdown.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)