The govt has changed direction on Covid-19 – and today Ardern’s ministers are waltzing into global and transport issues

Just two weeks ago the prime minister was standing in the Beehive theatrette to tell the country the government was still aiming to return to zero cases.   This week she was promising a phased end to Covid restrictions in Auckland, under a three-step plan, which moves away from the current elimination strategy.    

She acknowledged the elimination strategy was coming to an end, saying it had served New Zealand well.

Since then, the PM has said Cabinet has agreed to the use of vaccine certificates in New Zealand as a tool in high-risk settings including large events and the government is consulting on their use in places like hospitality.

According to Stuff, Ardern today will announce plans to roll out Covid testing much more widely, on the strength of a report from Professor David Murdoch, of Otago University, who leads the Government’s testing advisory group.

Ardern is reported to have said his work will form the basis of “a new rigorous testing regime that will be central to our strategy to control the virus” over coming months. 

And about time, too, ACT leader David Seymour huffed:

“Improving our approach to testing is another thing the Prime Minister should have done instead of a little dance while we enjoyed Covid-19 freedom.  

“This long nap, when we could have been preparing our defences, is another example of nice but clueless leadership from Ardern.”

National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop was similarly critical in a statement headed Testing expert group slams Government response

The Government’s own independent technical advisors on testing have slammed the Government’s inaction on using saliva testing and rapid antigen testing, says National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop.

“In September last year the Simpson/Roche report called on the Government to roll out saliva testing as a priority, but now, more than a year later, it is only just getting going and Rako Science’s efforts to partner with the Government for surge capacity surveillance testing have been rebuffed.”

But there were no Covid-related announcements when Point of Order checked the Beehive website this morning.

One line of ministerial focus was transport issues:

The Minister of Energy and Resources Dr Megan Woods declared the first two funding rounds of the Government’s “new-look Low Emission Transport Fund (LETF)” were open for applications. 

The first round will provide co-funding for low-emission vehicles and transport technology. The second round will focus on the installation of further public charging infrastructure.

Total funding will reach up to $25 million a year by 2023/24, with the Government increasing its contribution to up to $12.5 million per year by 2023/24, as announced in Budget 2021.

Both rounds open today.

Transport Minister Michael Wood, meanwhile, was approving a package of improvements to make State Highway 2 in Wairarapa safer.  Dependent on property acquisition and consents, construction will begin early next year on the safety improvements between Masterton and Carterton, including flexible safety barriers, pedestrian crossings for school children, walking and cycling paths, road widening, new signage and new roundabouts.

The second area of ministerial focus was on this country’s overseas interests.

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced New Zealand will send a Special Representative for Afghanistan to the Middle East to support New Zealand citizens, permanent residents and other visa holders who want to leave Afghanistan.

Visas have been granted for over 1250 individuals  

Mahuta is being somewhat coy about details but did say:

“While we can’t go into specifics of individual visas granted given privacy and security considerations, I can note that while granting visas Ministers supported members of the judiciary, human rights workers and prominent women who required assistance, and we have supported visas like this in a number of cases.”

Two statements emerged in the name of Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O’Connor, who is in Europe to advance New Zealand’s negotiations for a free trade agreement with the European Union.

 He is also participating in meetings at the OECD in France and G20 in Italy.

Arising from this, we have been advised of:

  • A curious alliance of six countries – the Ministers for trade from Costa Rica, Fiji, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland – have declared they welcomed the meeting of Agreement on Climate Change, Trade and Sustainability (ACCTS) partners on 6 October 2021, in Paris to discuss progress on negotiations for the ACCTS. Their meeting was chaired by Damien O’Connor.  
  • New Zealand, Chile and Canada welcomed Mexico as the newest member of the Inclusive Trade Action Group (ITAG) and signatory of the Global Trade and Gender Arrangement (GTAGA) at an event today in Paris. 

O’Connor introduced a great word from his foreign-policy lexicon to readers of his second statement:

“We are proud and pleased that Mexico has joined with us on this journey. Cooperation under the GTAGA helps to lay a better pathway for our women innovators and entrepreneurs,” Damien O’Connor said.

“This is another example of the New Zealand strategy of concerted open plurilaterialism in action.”

And what’s that?

“It’s an approach where we pursue opportunities to work with like-minded economies to develop new ideas in high-quality trade agreements. These agreements build on and support WTO rules, and are open to other WTO members to join.”

The statement reminded us that New Zealand, Canada and Chile, have worked together since November 2018 as the ITAG to promote a more inclusive and sustainable trade agenda. The GTAGA, signed in August 2020, is one concrete initiative that has flowed from this grouping.

Mexico’s participation in ITAG and GTAGA is another step forward in the strong and long-standing relationship with New Zealand, which includes our shared participation in the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). 

The press statement also contains a very welcome explanatory note:

About concerted open plurilateralism:

A key part of New Zealand’s trade strategy is bolstering and revitalising the rules-based system that is so crucial to small trading countries like ours.

Concerted open plurilateralism means we identify pathfinder opportunities to work with groups of like-minded economies that:

      • share our ambition to develop new ideas and norms in trade policy areas that are important to New Zealand, and
      • respond to business needs and global priorities, including inclusive trade and sustainable development.

Together, we develop high quality trade agreements that build on and support existing WTO rules. These are open to other WTO members to join if they can meet the high standard of commitments and lay a pathway to multilateral outcomes over time.

Most recently, the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA) and the Agreement on Climate Change, Trade and Sustainability (ACCTS) are instances of this approach in action.

So now you know. 

Latest from the Beehive

Government announces next steps in supporting visa holders to leave Afghanistan

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta has announced New Zealand will send a Special Representative for Afghanistan to the Middle East to support New Zealand citizens, permanent residents and other visa holders who want to leave Afghanistan as the humanitarian situation on the ground continues to deteriorate.

Wairarapa road safety package motoring ahead

A package of improvements to make State Highway 2 in Wairarapa safer has been given the green light by Waka Kotahi, Transport Minister Michael Wood announced today.

Government puts ‘pedal to metal’ on cutting transport emissions

The first two funding rounds of the Government’s new look Low Emission Transport Fund (LETF) are now open for applications, the Minister of Energy and Resources Dr Megan Woods announced today.

New Zealand welcomes Mexico as a new partner on inclusive trade initiatives

New Zealand, Chile and Canada welcomed Mexico as the newest member of the Inclusive Trade Action Group (ITAG) and signatory of the Global Trade and Gender Arrangement (GTAGA) at an event today in Paris.

Joint statement: Agreement on Climate Change, Trade and Sustainability (ACCTS) Trade Ministers’ meeting

We, the Ministers for trade from Costa Rica, Fiji, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland, welcome the meeting of Agreement on Climate Change, Trade and Sustainability (ACCTS) partners on 6 October 2021, in Paris to discuss progress on negotiations for the ACCTS.

2 thoughts on “The govt has changed direction on Covid-19 – and today Ardern’s ministers are waltzing into global and transport issues

  1. She has not got round to telling Deputy PM Grant Robertson obviously because I heard him extolling the benefits of Elimination on Radio this afternoon

    Like

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