Buzz from the Beehive – and we learn how Zoom helps Nanaia Mahuta stay in touch with the world (or Honiara, at least)

We were pleasantly surprised to catch up on the latest announcement from Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta – jointly issued with Defence Minister Peeni Henare – about the extension of the New Zealand Defence Force deployment to Solomon Islands.

This is being done as part of the Pacific-led Solomon Islands International Assistance Force.

It attests to the marvels of Zoom, because (a) Mahuta has been accused of being out touch with what’s happening in some spots of special interest to New Zealand, and (b) she was saying she has met with Solomon Islands Foreign Affairs and External Trade Minister Jeremiah Manele via Zoom

“… to discuss the depth of our cooperation as well as the extension of our deployment to Solomon Islands.”

A read-out of the Zoom call will (or should) be on the MFAT website here.

The announcement was one of two with implications (more or less) for this country’s links with the world.

From Geneva came a copy of the New Zealand’s Country Statement which Health Minister Andrew Little delivered to the 75th World Health Assembly.

And from Internal Affairs Minister Jan Tinetti came news that the fees for New Zealand passports will increase “slightly” due to the decrease in demand caused by COVID-19.

This is another increase in overseas travel costs, in other words.

This increase bewildered us, here at Point of Order.  According to our understanding of the economics caper, prices tend to lift when demand increases, putting pressure on supply.

But let’s get back to the world of Nanaia Mahuta and her announcement about the extension of the New Zealand Defence Force deployment to Solomon Islands.

It’s a smaller world than it has been for previous foreign ministers, apparently, because according to a Newshub report, Mahuta hasn’t had direct communication with New Zealand’s Ambassador to Russia or our Embassy in Moscow since the Ukraine invasion began.

Newshub also reported that Mahuta has not contacted New Zealand diplomats in the Solomon Islands since its pact with China, aside from a letter.

At that time Mahuta said the proposed agreement with China was within Solomon Islands’ sovereign rights but risked destabilising the current institutions and arrangements that have long ensured the Pacific region’s security.

“Given this would not benefit New Zealand or our Pacific neighbours we will continue to raise our strong condemnation of such agreement directly with the countries involved.”

Mahuta said ensuring the regional security of the Pacific region was a priority for the Government, and it would continue to play its part.

A priority, maybe, but perhaps not as great as Three Waters when it comes to ministerial involvement.

National’s Gerry Brownlee – we learn – had asked Mahuta in a Written Parliamentary Question what communication she has had with either the Ambassador or the Embassy since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.

“I have not communicated directly with the New Zealand Ambassador or Embassy in Russia since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” Mahuta replied last week.

“Such communications would normally be with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.”

But are these normal times?

Brownlee – National’s foreign affairs spokesperson and a former Foreign Affairs Minister – is dining out on this.

He said the lack of communication between Mahuta and the embassy “makes no sense”.

“In this day and age, communications are pretty easy,” he told Newshub.

“While there might be a time zone thing, everyone is putting up with that through the Zoom age we live in. It is pretty easy to pick up a phone.”

Newshub no doubt relished noting that since the invasion began, Mahuta has said one of the Government’s considerations for not expelling the Russian Ambassador to New Zealand is that Moscow could retaliate and kick out our own representative.

“We also have people still in Russia who require our support or consular support; so we have to weigh all those things up as we take next steps,” Mahuta said in March.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reiterated that in April.  

“When it comes to expelling ambassadors, that also means that you lose your representation in those countries,” she said.

Brownlee is questioning the point of having an Ambassador in Moscow and believes she should be brought home and the Russian Ambassador in Wellington expelled.

Point of Order notes that Mahuta makes no mention of being in contact with the Russian Embassy via Zoom.

Latest from the Beehive

25 MAY 2022

NZ commits to enduring partnership with Solomon Islands

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Minister of Defence Peeni Henare today announced the extension of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) deployment to Solomon Islands, as part of the Pacific-led Solomon Islands International Assistance Force (SIAF).


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Director-General, esteemed fellow Ministers, and colleagues, tēnā koutou katoa. Greetings to all.

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