Focus on safety and security – Mahuta tackles the Myanmar menace while Wood warns of the danger from more trains

Buzz from the Beehive

Safety and security were the common theme in the latest statements – just two – from The Beehive.

The first – headed Call for New Zealanders to get on-board with rail safety – tells us this is Rail Safety Week.

Transport Minister Michael Wood grabbed the opportunity to maintain there is a need for a renewed focus on rail safety because …

Wait for it

Because additional trains are operating across the network,

“… powered by the Government’s investment in rail.”

We trust this is an environmentally friendly power source.

The second announcement came from Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta, thankfully – but all too briefly – focussing on matters other than Three Waters and local government electoral rearrangements.

She tells us she has wrapped up a series of meetings with Indo-Pacific partners in Cambodia which reinforced the need for the region to work collectively to deal with security and economic challenges.

Mahuta had travelled to Phnom Penh for a bilateral meeting between ASEAN foreign ministers and New Zealand, and wider ministerial engagements during the ASEAN Regional Forum and East Asia Summit.

“The visit to Cambodia reaffirms Aotearoa New Zealand’s enduring partnership with ASEAN and its dialogue partners,” said Nanaia Mahuta.

“Ministers from the Indo-Pacific met in the midst of regional and global security conflicts and economic challenges. We reinforced the importance of responding collectively to promote a rules-based approach and safeguard the sovereignty of all states, regardless of their size.

“Participation in these meetings was an opportunity to put on record our values-based position on key issues on the regional security agenda.”

And what regional security threat is posed by Myanmar?

We ask because the first “key issue” mentioned in Mahuta’s press statement was  the violence in Myanmar, including executions of pro-democracy activists, which reverse years of economic development and social progress in Myanmar.

“With regard to Myanmar, more needs to be done. New Zealand responded swiftly to the military coup one year ago and suspended high-level political and military engagement; instituted travel bans; and re-channelled humanitarian support directly to aid groups and away from military control. We are gravely concerned by the executions of four prisoners.

“At the Cambodia meetings we joined regional partners to express deep disappointment at the lack of commitment by the Myanmar military to ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus to end the violence and return to civilian rule. Myanmar did not attend the Cambodia meetings and ASEAN’s special envoy will now re-engage with key Myanmar representatives.”

But hold on.

We have a strong sense that something much more threatening to our wellbeing can be discerned in China’s flexing of its military muscle around Taiwan.

This was next on the list in Mahuta’s statement:  

“New Zealand remains committed to our one China policy. I expressed concern over the increased tensions in the Taiwan Strait, called for restraint and encouraged de-escalation and the peaceful resolution of Cross Strait issues. We are deeply concerned at recent actions that increase the risk of miscalculation, including the launching of ballistic missiles by China.

“We urge major powers in the region to deliberate carefully and take a long-term perspective to ensure we can build and maintain a peaceful and stable regional order for future generations.”

 Mahuta also articulated the need to recognise the perspective of Pacific nations in Indo-Pacific decisions, especially the need for meaningful climate action in regional agreements.

“Pacific leaders have now reaffirmed climate change as the single greatest security threat in our region with the adoption of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.

“There are opportunities to enhance future cooperation including strengthening connections between ASEAN and the Pacific Island Forum.”

Oh – and the Russians weren’t forgotten.

“I reiterated Aotearoa New Zealand’s strong condemnation of Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and noted our ongoing support for Ukraine.”

Mahuta said there is immense value in discussions kanohi ki te kanohi on the regional strategic agenda.

We trust the people with whom she was trying to communicate had their te reo translators with them to grapple with her disconcerting disinclination to speak only in English.  

She also said she valued the chance to reconnect with her Ministerial counterparts for the first in-person ASEAN meeting since 2019,

“… and underscored our commitment to a peaceful, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific region with ASEAN at its centre.”

During the week, the Minister held bilateral engagements with:

  • Brunei Darussalam Second Foreign Minister Dato Seri Erywan
  • Cambodia Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn
  • China State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi
  • European Union High Representative/Vice President Josep Borrell
  • Lao PDR Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith
  • Indonesia Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi
  • Republic of Korea Minister of Foreign Affairs Park Jin
  • Timor-Leste Minister of Foreign Affairs Adaljiza Albertina Xavier Reis Magno
  • Republic of Türkiye Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu
  • Viet Nam Minister of Foreign Affairs Bùi Thanh Sơn

The Minister has arrived in Kuala Lumpur for a visit marking 65 years of diplomatic relations between New Zealand and Malaysia.

Back in Wellington, Transport Minister  Michael Wood was addressing the threat posed by trains running rampant across the landscape and explaining what the Government is doing to ameliorate the menace.  

“Over the last five years the Government has invested significantly to improve level crossings around the country, with more than 40 pedestrian and road level crossing upgrades complete in Auckland and Wellington, and 36 road crossings on the State Highway network finished nationwide,” Michael Wood said.

Since 2017 the Government has invested $8.6 billion to build a resilient and reliable network after decades of neglect and decline, Wood said.

“Much of this is the bread and butter of our network replacing track, new culverts and bridges, upgraded turnouts, all of which are needed for a safe and effective network.”

“These are improving safety in our urban centres and regions, but people’s behaviour has an important role to play. 

In the last decade, 155 people have died in collisions with trains in New Zealand, and 91 more people have been seriously injured. The year to June 30, saw eight people lose their lives in collisions with trains.  

Wood stated the obvious when he said:

“The fact is collisions with trains are usually avoidable. We all need to make sure that whenever we approach a rail line – we are alert, obey signs, warning bells and barriers, and look both ways for trains.” 

But we don’t all do that – obviously – and in the past year there have been 28 collisions at public level crossings, more than twice the 13 collisions in 2021.

More than 60 per cent of these collisions last year were at level crossings that already have protections, like barrier arms, flashing lights and bells. 

Wood wants us to get behind KiwiRail and TrackSafe NZ’s 2022 Rail Safety Week Campaign, which is focussed on promoting a ‘blow left, blow right’ superstition.

And what does that entail?

Ask the Minister. 

But thanks to the Government’s investment, in the coming years there will be more frequent commuter trains in Auckland and Wellington and more freight trains in our regions.

“It’s more important than ever that we learn and follow safe behaviours now,” Michael Wood said.

Latest from the Beehive

8 AUGUST 2022

Call for New Zealanders to get on-board with rail safety

With additional trains operating across the network, powered by the Government’s investment in rail, there is need for a renewed focus on rail safety, Transport Minister Michael Wood emphasised at the launch of Rail Safety Week 2022.

7 AUGUST 2022

Regional approach the focus at ASEAN and East Asia Summit talks

The Foreign Minister has wrapped up a series of meetings with Indo-Pacific partners in Cambodia which reinforced the need for the region to work collectively to deal with security and economic challenges.

 

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