Opposition MPs demand answers about Covid border breach – they seem coy, however, about Treaty-based local govt reform ideas

Trade Minister Damien O’Connor seems to be earning his keep on his overseas travels.  He and his Irish counterpart have just signed a statement to re-affirm the agricultural cooperation partnership between Ireland and New Zealand.

Among the consequences, and building on bilateral dialogues held late in September, Irish agricultural officials and officials from our Ministry for Primary Industries will develop a joint cooperation agenda around the central mission of Advancing a Progressive International Partnership for Sustainable Agriculture.

But much more media attention has been paid to the announcement from COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins on Northland’s move to Alert Level 3 restrictions

“… following recent information on the risk presented by the positive case initially tested in Whangarei earlier this week and confirmed in Auckland yesterday…”

That person is now in an Auckland Managed Isolation Quarantine facility.

“A public health investigation continues to identify close contacts and any potential locations of interest.”

But huge questions are being asked about how the unidentifed person was able to cross the border that is supposed to protect Northlanders from infectious Aucklanderss and Oppposition MPs are demanding more information.

ACT Leader David Seymour says:

“The Government should release what it knows about the mysterious Northland COVID case instead of stonewalling the country.

And:

” It’s implausible that the Government has decided to put a whole province of 120,000 people into Alert Level 3, but doesn’t know whether one person has criminal records, what their occupation is, or whether they have gang affiliations.”

He called on the Government to answer these questions:

Was the case Gang affiliated?

Is the case uncooperative because they were involved in criminal activity?

How did the Government learn that the travel document was false? Was it in relation to another falsified document?

How did the person get from Kawakawa back down to Auckland despite a checkpoint? Did this happen with price cooperation?

National’s Police spokesperson Simeon Brown similarly says:

“The Government must give the public clear information about how a woman who travelled to Northland and subsequently tested positive for Covid was able to do so, and why it took so long to have her put into MIQ, says National’s Police spokesperson Simeon Brown.

“New Zealanders are rightly concerned about how this individual managed to allegedly obtain a travel permit illegally and then, after testing positive for Covid, go into hiding for several days.

“There are several questions the Government must answer.

“Who was the woman travelling with? How did she obtain a travel permit? When did police know the permit was not lawful, and what action did they take to locate her at that point? Did police use information from the Gang Intelligence Centre to identify her? Are Police considering charging her for breaching any Covid orders?’

While the vast majority of New Zealanders were doing the right thing, in recent weeks gangs had continued to smuggle guns, drugs, people and even KFC across the Auckland boundary – risking the spread of Covid throughout New Zealand.

“An effective law and order response is needed to ensure incidents like these are brought to an end before it is too late.”

But while the politically bothersome need to lock down Northland was bad news for the Government , it could bray that more than 10,000 vaccinations were administered to Māori yesterday, the highest number in the vaccine campaign so far.

“There is now real momentum in the Māori vaccination campaign. Right across the country, Māori are rolling up their sleeves to get vaccinated to protect their whānau and community,” Peeni Henare said.

There is real momentum, too, in the Government’s highly political interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi to justify the co-governance and partnership arrangements it is promoting throughout the country’s system of local government.

These attempts to give Maori a greater say in local government decision-making can only be achieved by diluting – or eliminating – long-standing democratic arrangements for electing mayors and councillors and holding them to account.

A raft of ideas for doing the necessary diluting can be found in the interim report on the Future for Local Government Review which Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta welcomed yesterday.

The report embraces a broad area of issues.  But Point of Order focused on the report’s telling us:

“The relationship between local government and Māori is being re-examined, as the country moves towards a new phase in the Treaty of Waitangi relationship.”

The mainstream news media (now operating with a dose of government funding in its fuel tanks) either did not notice the implications for local authority electoral and governance arrangements or opted to keep their audiences in the dark.

Disappointingly, the same failure to read the report or to let its contents go unchallenged seems to apply to Opposition politicians.  Point of Order found no press statement posted in the names of National or ACT spokespersons to tell us what they think of the reform agenda set out in the interim report which Mahuta welcomed – but they may have expressed their views in other ways.

UPDATE:

This was reported by RNZ – 

 ‘Too big an opportunity to waste’ – National Party

National Party local government spokesperson Christopher Luxon said the party supported the review, and it was an important opportunity to think strategically about the future and the relationship between central and local government.

“The initial findings aren’t that surprising. There is clearly room for councils to improve their prioritisation, professionalism and performance.”

He said the panel would have its “work cut out” due to council discontent about the “heavy-handed” approach being taken to the Three Waters reforms.

“Hopefully the panel can continue repairing frayed relationships and properly engaging with councils in a true spirit of partnership, because the review is too big an opportunity to waste.”

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