Russian envoy gets a “dressing down” while Mahuta focuses on Indo-Pacific Forum – but other wars are being fought in NZ

A Stuff headline suggests Russian Ambassador Georgii Viktorovich Zuev was treated like a naughty schoolchild, when Foreign Affairs officials told him what this country thinks about Russia’s provocative incursion into another country this week.  It said NZ scolds Russian ambassador over Ukraine encroachment. 

The report proceeded to say Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta had instructed government officials to give the Ambassador “a dressing down” over the military incursion into Ukraine.

A dressing down.  Is that it?

On the other hand, Stuff has reported:

Professor Bethan Greener of Massey University said despite this country’s size, calling in Russia’s ambassador on Wednesday was “still in fact an act of global significance.”

“Calling in the ambassador is highly symbolic in foreign policy and is one of the strongest diplomatic signals available to the Government, short of other more forceful measures that may now be on the table,” Greener said.

Our check with The Beehive website for an update on this country’s official response to events unfolding in Ukraine drew a blank. 

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta  – obviously – was focused on the two days of engagements with European and regional counterparts at the Indo-Pacific Forum that was the purpose of her travels to Europe.

Mahuta was one of two Indo Pacific Ministers invited to co-chair roundtable discussions during the Forum.  Alongside executive Vice President Frans Timmermans, she co‑chaired the roundtable on global issues affecting the Indo-Pacific including climate change, health, biodiversity and just transitions.

Back home in Wellington, Ministers were reporting on their battles on other fronts.

Most notably, they were at war with –

  • OMICRON:  The Government has confirmed a move to the next phase of the Government’s Omicron response from 11:59pm tonight.  The changes are aimed at easing the pressure on  testing and contact tracing services over the next three to six weeks while helping to ensure critical services and supply chains remain operational and the economy keeps moving.
  • GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS:  The country’s first electric milk tank tanker, a solar-panelled bus, electric off-road farm vehicles and new high powered EV charging stations are among projects to receive co-funding from the Government’s “new-look” Low Emission Transport Fund (LETF).  Energy and Resources Minister Dr Megan Woods said 13 vehicle and technology projects will receive $3,452,025, and 13 EV charging projects will receive $3,001,400 in co-funding.  The Government has expanded the scope of the LETF to increase its impact and encourage innovation in the transport sector.
  • POVERTY:  The PM delivered a progress report, citing figures released today by Stats NZ.  These show all nine child poverty measures continuing to trend downwards resulting in 66,500 children being lifted out of poverty and the Government meeting the first round of child poverty targets on two of the three primary measures. The full release by Stats NZ is available at https://www.stats.govt.nz/ and guidance for interpreting whether the child poverty targets have been met is here.
  • PESTS: Conservation Minister Kiri Allan fired another salvo, armed with funding from the Government’s Jobs for Nature programme.  The fund is investing in a project to manage the impact of deer and other predators in the Kaimanawa and Kaweka Forest Parks to improve the health of the forest and protect the native whio or blue duck.  The Sika Foundation, a hunter-led, conservation focused non-profit entity with a particular interest in sika deer, will receive nearly $700,000 over the next three years for this work.

In two other announcements, the government could be said to be striking a blow for rural communities, rather than necessarily fighting against an obvious enemy.

First, the Government is changing overseas investment rules to ensure forestry conversions by overseas investors are of better benefit to New Zealand.

This will help ensure the right forest is planted in the right place for the right reasons, Associate Minister of Finance David Parker said today.

Changes to the Overseas Investment Act 2005, approved by Cabinet, will require the consideration of proposals by overseas investors to acquire land for conversion to production forestry under the Benefit to New Zealand test, rather than under the streamlined ‘special forestry test.

This change will apply only to forestry conversions, such as where overseas investors look to acquire existing farmland for planting into a new forest. There is no change to investments in pre-existing forests.

The current settings for investing in land to be converted to production forestry did not require overseas investors to demonstrate the benefits of their proposed investment in the same way the Act does for other land-based investments, David Parker said.

“High quality foreign investment in forestry, and a strong forestry sector, remain important – and we continue to welcome this investment. However, as economic and regulatory contexts change, it is important to consider the impact of particular kinds of investment in forestry to ensure that all stakeholders continue to benefit.”

Second, a major effort to upgrade capacity on congested rural broadband networks has been announced by the Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications, David Clark.

The Rural Capacity Upgrade will result in existing cell towers being upgraded and new towers built in rural areas experiencing poor performance, as well as fibre, additional VDSL coverage and other wireless technology deployed in congested areas.

“By the end of 2024 around 47,000 rural households and businesses should experience faster internet speeds and better reception than they do right now,” David Clark said.

As part of the initiative, 13 private sector contractors have signed contracts with Crown Infrastructure Partners to carry out the work. The programme will be funded with $47 million from the Government’s COVID Response and Recovery Fund.

Latest from the Beehive

Electric milk tanker helps drive New Zealand emissions down

The country’s first electric milk tank tanker, a solar-panelled bus, electric off-road farm vehicles and new high powered EV charging stations are among projects to receive co-funding from the Government’s new-look Low Emission Transport Fund.

Next stage in plan to manage Omicron peak

Ministers have confirmed a move to the next phase of the Government’s Omicron response from 11:59pm tonight (Thursday, 24 February), COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today.

Sika Foundation turns sights onto ecological restoration

The Government’s Jobs for Nature programme is investing in a project to manage the impact of deer and other predators in the Kaimanawa and Kaweka Forest Parks which will not only improve the health of the forest but also protect the native whio or blue duck.

Government lifts 66,500 children out of poverty

Figures released today by Stats NZ show all nine child poverty measures continuing to trend downwards resulting in 66,500 children being lifted out of poverty and the Government meeting the first round of child poverty targets on two of the three primary measures.

Foreign Minister completes productive Indo-Pacific Forum engagements

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta has completed two days of engagements with European and regional counterparts at the Indo-Pacific Forum, co-hosted by the European Union and France, in Paris.

Streamlined forestry test to end for overseas investors planning to convert farms to forest

The Government is taking steps to ensure forestry conversions by overseas investors are of better benefit to New Zealand.

Homes, businesses to benefit from upgrade to rural broadband

A major effort to upgrade capacity on congested rural broadband networks has been unveiled by the Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications, David Clark.

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