Promoting indigenous aspirations and saying “thank you” are among Mahuta’s successes on Middle East visit

The modesty of our Foreign Minister is to be admired.  She announced her departure from the Middle East at the weekend in a statement headed Foreign Minister concludes successful visit to the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Some Ministers might have been tempted to describe their latest doings as a triumph.

Mahuta may be keeping that word on hold until four new organisations have been established with 50:50 co-governance arrangements to deliver the highly controversial Three Waters programme without her having to compromise

Mind you, it is tempting to ask by what criteria success (or failure, for that matter) is measured after a Minister visits other countries.

In this case it could be regarded as a success – a year after her being give that portfolio – that our Minister of Foreign Affairs at long last has ventured overseas.

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister David Clark’s weekend achievement was to announce the Government’s decision to review the residential building supply market.

The study will enable the Commerce Commission to investigate any factors that may affect competition for the supply or acquisition of key building supplies.

“There have been long-standing concerns about potential competition issues, particularly due to the highly concentrated nature of some markets in the supply chain,” David Clark said.

This is the third market study of its kind in New Zealand.

It follows a similar piece of work into the retail fuel sector completed in December 2019 which found that motorists were paying higher petrol prices due to a lack of competition, and led to the Fuel Industry Act. The second market study into the retail grocery sector is ongoing, with the Commerce Commission’s final report due in March 2022.

The Commerce Commission will present its final report on residential building supplies in December 2022.

Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall was busy at the weekend, too, delivering a speech to the NZ Sepsis Conference 2021.

She began by thanking the New Zealand Sepsis Trust and the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases for hosting this inaugural conference, and for giving her the honour of providing the closing address.

But ministers nowadays go further with their acknowledgements and Verrall said:

“I mihi also to Kiingi Tuheitia, and members of the Waikato and Te Arawa iwi and tangata whenua here today.

“Finally, my appreciation as always goes to Te Ohu Rata o Aotearoa, and ACC.”

The ACC – of course –  is the Accident Compensation Corporation, an organisation which serves the whole community regardless of ethnicity.

Te Ohu Rata o Aotearoa’s purpose and focus, on the other hand, is racially defined:  

 Te ORA represents the majority of the Māori medical workforce.  Te ORA’s vision is to provide Māori medical leadership to the health sector to effect Māori health development.

Why did it warrant special mention in the minister’s introductory remarks?

It is not altogether clear, but in the speech Verrall did note that Māori and Pacific people face higher rates of sepsis – at least double the rate amongst non-Māori and non-Pacific people.

But let’s follow Mahuta on her overseas travels.

 Inevitably, a highlight of her Middle East visit was her hosting Te Aratini, a name gifted by the Iwi Chairs Forum “as a call to igniting and reigniting the enduring connections between Indigenous & Tribal Peoples globally”. It “conveys the idea of many converging pathways”.

The Te Aratini website says

“The Te Aratini is more than an event.  It is a movement toward elevating Indigenous & Tribal peoples’ knowledges, know-how and aspirations globally. In pursuit of this goal, Te Aratini will foster a deeper holistic understanding of Indigenous & Tribal Peoples economies and the converging roles of culture, commerce, community and conservation in the protection, maintenance and resurgence of the world’s Indigenous & Tribal economies.”

Mahuta’s press statement says much the same thing:

“Te Aratini is more than just an event, it provided a unique platform for rich discussions drawing on indigenous perspectives to consider the benefits of culture, commerce, and wellbeing.” 

So what were the Minister’s accomplishments as described in the press statement.

She…

  • Hosted New Zealand’s most important event at Expo 2020, Te Aratini, and met with Emirati leaders including His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan..

“The UAE is one of New Zealand’s strongest relationships in the region and the UAE’s leadership in bringing the world together for Dubai Expo 2020 is testament to a strong, shared ambition to create a more sustainable future for all,” said Nanaia Mahuta.

Really?

  • She and the sheikh discussed opportunities to further grow cooperation, particularly in the areas of food security and trade facilitation.
  • She thanked the UAE for its generous support of New Zealand’s Afghanistan evacuation operation in August and ongoing assistance.
  • She travelled to Doha to meet Qatar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs His Excellency Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Her Excellency Lolwah R M Al-Khater and visited one of the Afghanistan Facilitated Departure Compounds where people coming out of Kabul stay before leaving for New Zealand.   This provided the opportunity to thank the Qatar Government for its key role in supporting New Zealand’s Afghanistan response.

Saying “thank you” – we suppose – counts as a success and Mahuta’s statement reminds us what her expressions of gratitude were all about.

 “Qatar has provided invaluable help to New Zealand citizens, permanent residents and visa holders leaving Afghanistan. Doha has been a vital lifeline as we have worked to bring these people out of Afghanistan and through to New Zealand and we are sincerely grateful,” said Nanaia Mahuta.

Since the New Zealand Defence Force evacuation flights ended in August, many more citizens and visa holders have been assisted to leave Afghanistan, bringing the total number of those safely brought to New Zealand since the Taliban takeover to over 630. A further 130 are due to arrive in the coming weeks, many of whom have been assisted by the Qatar Government in Doha before leaving for New Zealand.

Mahuta is now in Washington DC  for a series of meetings including with Secretary of State Blinken, before departing for Ottawa, Canada tomorrow.

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