The case for not ditching our vodka (as a gesture to admonish Putin) is that we might need it when Three Waters are flowing

 

Motivated by the Parliamentary consensus which resulted in the passage of historic sanctions legislation in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine, Point of Order has tipped out its Stolichnaya Vodka. 

Whether we should also burn the copy of The Brothers Karamazov that sits in the office book shelf is still under discussion at the PoO board table. 

Tipping out the vodka wasn’t an easy decision.  We risked doing something that would find favour with Nanaia Mahuta, whose smiles of approval we would prefer to avoid because the Three Waters programme she is dogmatically promoting is anathema to all members of the team. 

By our reckoning, the vodka is precious because it could well turn out to be cheaper than the water that flows through our taps after she has rammed her highly unpopular reforms into law.

Regardless of any price considerations (we further reasoned), we will need a stiff snifter or two for medicinal purposes to treat our depression after she has seriously watered down the country’s democratic arrangements with her co-governance plans. 

We were won over by the sentiments expressed in her press statement and by other MPs during the parliamentary debate on the new law.

“New Zealand unequivocally condemns the Putin regime’s brutal and intolerable invasion of Ukraine. It is an unprovoked, illegal and entirely avoidable tragedy,” Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said.

The rest of the flow of Beehive announcements since PoO last monitored them relate to Covid-19 and vaccines.

  • The isolation period for COVID-19 cases and their household contacts will be reduced from 10 to seven days.  The change will come into effect from 11:59pm tomorrow (Friday 11 March).
  • New Zealanders awaiting the arrival of Novavax to get vaccinated against COVID-19 will be able to make an appointment online or by phone from tomorrow.  A shipment of more than 250,000 Novavax COVID-19 vaccines (Nuvaxovid) has arrived in te country and preparations are well advanced for some vaccination centres to be able to offer it next week.  For more information: https://www.health.govt.nz/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-vaccines/covid-19-vaccines-getting-novavax
  • Managed Isolation and Quarantine is beginning to scale down its operations as international travel starts again.  By the end of June, 28 of the current 32 facilities will leave the MIQ network and return to being hotels.
  • The Government has extended critical support to the aviation sector through to March 2023 to help rebuild international connections and support New Zealand’s economic recovery. The Maintaining International Air Connectivity (MIAC) scheme was due to end on 31 March but has been pushed out a year to protect NZ’s links with the rest of the world and keep trade flowing.  The Government has agreed to an additional $250 million to support flights from 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023. The Ministry of Transport is working with airlines to confirm the routes and services that will be supported during the extension period.  

But the Point of Order team’s interest in governmental matters was focussed largely on Nanaia Mahuta’s goings-on as Minister of Foreign Affairs (the sanctions) and Local Government (the Three Waters programme).

The Russia Sanctions Act provides a broad legal framework which enables New Zealand to impose economic sanctions targeting specific people, and companies, assets and services involved with Russia’s aggression.

Mahuta said this means we could – for example – stop the purchase or sale of property, the movement of ships and planes in New Zealand’s waters or airspace, stop imports and exports, lending of money, or the movement of money.

She said:

“We acted quickly to condemn Putin’s war and immediately implemented a suite of measures in response including travel bans. But Russia has not ceased its unprovoked, unjustified and inhumane aggression on innocent people in Ukraine so a greater response was required.

“Despite the UN General Assembly voting 141 to 5 condemning Russia’s actions, Russia has vetoed any UN sanctions. As such, while a bill of this nature has never been brought before our Parliament, we have done this strong in the knowledge we are acting in line with the international community.”

The legislation was not about targeting people simply for being Russian, Mahua said.  Sanctions would target those who are linked to Russia’s war in Ukraine, or who are of economic or strategic importance to Putin’s regime.

This could include family members of key players, Russian banks, and other countries like Belarus which actively support Russia.

The first tranche of sanctions are being worked on “at pace” and are expected in the next week.

Wearing her Local Government hat, Mahuta yesterday welcomed the independent Working Group report on the Three Waters Reform Programme.

But her enthusiasm hasn’t been infectious.  

The Democracy Project reports concerns under the heading Can Three Waters be salvaged, or will Nanaia Mahuta have to go?

“The Government’s Three Waters reform programme is still in crisis, despite the supposed fix coming in yesterday with the release of yet another report with recommendations for improvements.
 
“The Government seems determined to push through a deeply unpopular set of reforms for drinking, waste, and storm water, taking assets and responsibilities off local government and handing over control to four big entities that will operate under a Treaty-based co-governance model.”

The article points out that none of the report’s 47 recommendations are very significant.

“This is unsurprising as the working group was stacked, and given very tight terms of reference, meaning it was always more an exercise in public manipulation than good public policymaking.
 
“In particular, the working group were not allowed to examine the core of Nanaia Mahuta’s Three Waters model – setting up the new entities under a co-governance model in which significant power is shifted to iwi, who would have half the control over the four new entities. That remains the elephant in the room, which Mahuta and her Government are extremely reluctant to discuss. The suspicion is that by avoiding talking about the shift to co-governance, the Government is hoping major constitutional change can simply be achieved without public debate.
 
“Of course, there could be very good reasons for introducing a co-governance model. The problem is the Government has yet to make the case. Accordingly, surveys continue to show the public is deeply unconvinced by the concept. And it probably doesn’t help that whenever questions are raised about it, they are met with allegations of “racism” or “scaremongering”.

FOOTNOTE:

Whoops.  Have we dumped our vodka prematurely.

PoO has been alerted to the news that the Stoli Group is rebranding their vodka — which isn’t made or sold in Russia — to show support for Ukraine.

Stolichnaya Vodka — the version produced by the Stoli Group — will now simply be called Stoli Vodka.

Stoli Group wrote that this rebrand to end its use of the full Stolichnaya name came as a “direct response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine” with three factors playing into the decision: “the founder’s vehement position on the Putin regime; the Stoli employees determination to take action; and the desire to accurately represent Stoli’s roots in Latvia.”

The Food & Wine website reports:

“On that final point, Stolichnaya’s modern history can be a bit confusing. The dissolution of the Soviet Union began a still-ongoing debate over whether Stolichnaya remains a Russian state-owned brand or if it became a private entity — and both sides make a version of the vodka. In Russia, Stolichnaya Vodka is state-owned and that “Stoli” will keep the full name. But for most of the rest of the world, the United States included, Stolichnaya Vodka is produced in Latvia by the Luxembourg-based Stoli Group, controlled by the exiled Russian billionaire Yuri Shefler.

“And so to further differentiate this non-Russian-produced Stolichnaya from its Russian counterpart, Shefler announced late on Friday that his company would be ditching the ‘-chnaya’ from its signature vodka’s name.

” ‘While I have been exiled from Russia since 2000 due to my opposition to Putin, I have remained proud of the Stolichnaya brand,’ Shefler said in the announcement. ‘We have made the decision to rebrand entirely as the name no longer represents our organization. More than anything, I wish for ‘Stoli’ to represent peace in Europe and solidarity with Ukraine’.”

Latest from the Beehive

MIQ to wind down as borders reopen

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Aviation sector ready for take-off with MIAC extension

The Government has extended critical support to the aviation sector through to March 2023 to help rebuild international connections and support New Zealand’s economic recovery.

New Zealand passes historic Russia Sanctions Act

Parliament has unanimously passed historic sanctions legislation in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Isolation period reduced from 10 to 7 days; third vaccine becomes available

The isolation period for COVID-19 cases and their household contacts will be reduced from 10 to seven days, Minister for COVID-19 Response Chris Hipkins announced today.

 

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