Stay-at-home ministers are missing out on giving the personal touch to NZ’s foreign relationships

The reluctance of senior ministers from the PM downwards to travel too far – with the noteworthy exception of trade minister Damien O’Connor – is impacting NZ’s standing overseas.

True, James Shaw and his sizeable entourage are attending this week’s COP26 climate change-fest in Glasgow.  PM Jacinda Ardern wanted to attend COP26, we understand, but APEC is in the way and she will address the leaders’ meeting on November 11.

Why the reluctance to travel when every other country’s ministers are aloft and away?

Good question.  Even Joe Biden, who is loathe to travel offshore because of Covid-19 considerations for the 78-year-old US President, will be pitching his stall at Glasgow.

Some put the reluctance down to the strong domestic focus by the PM’s office under chief of staff Raj Nahna, who is widely seen as a Labour apparatchik from Auckland.  The communications team is headed by Andrew Campbell, who joined from the Greens.

They guard the gate closely and Grant Robertson is about the only minister with easy access. Continue reading “Stay-at-home ministers are missing out on giving the personal touch to NZ’s foreign relationships”

Petition (that disappeared) was signed by Pakeha mums who fear race now comes first in Plunket’s baby-care priorities


Mothers are aggrieved by what some say is a racist policy instituted by New Zealand’s most cherished parenting organisation. Graham Adams argues it is just one example of growing dissatisfaction over preference granted on grounds of ethnicity.


In terms of the nation’s traditional iconography, it’s hard to decide whether Sir Edmund Hillary or Plunket nurses rate more highly in the popular imagination.

For many New Zealanders, Hillary represents the epitome of individualistic adventure while Plunket nurses looking after anxious mothers and vulnerable babies represent the best of community spirit.

Nevertheless, news came this week that Plunket is a “white supremacist” organisation, for which root-and-branch regeneration will be inadequate. (See Cate Broughton’s Plunket takes on its history, and future, to be ‘a better Treaty partner’, and a response to this by Linda Bryder: Plunket founder driven to reduce high infant mortality rate.)

This assault on Plunket’s reputation — let alone its very existence — will seem to many as outrageous as someone demanding Sir Ed’s image be taken off the $5 note because he was a white supremacist who denied Tenzing Norgay the chance of being the first person to stand on the summit of Mt Everest.

The case against Plunket — a charitable trust largely funded by taxpayers — rests mainly on views on race and eugenics held by its founder, Sir Truby King, who died 83 years ago in 1938. Continue reading “Petition (that disappeared) was signed by Pakeha mums who fear race now comes first in Plunket’s baby-care priorities”

Two inquiries aim to throw light on power blackout – but a switched-on govt should see it’s more than market failure

The  blame-game over  the  Monday  night   power  blackout   has  deepened.

Ministers initially  talked  of  “market  failure” – National accused the government of  being  asleep  at the  wheel

Then ACT said the  government’s energy  policy  was  “flawed”  because  it  puts  carbon emissions  ahead  of  affordable and  secure electricity,  through the ban  on  natural  gas  exploration.

The   Green Party,  for its  part,  contends the  “gentailers” are  more focused on chasing  profits than providing   more affordable,  more  renewable, and  more  secure  electricity  generation.   

Meanwhile  two small players in the electricity market have made a formal complaint to the Electricity Authority following Monday’s rolling blackouts. Continue reading “Two inquiries aim to throw light on power blackout – but a switched-on govt should see it’s more than market failure”

Chilly blast bares the harsh realities – and shortcomings – around Ardern govt’s renewable energy ambitions

The  headlines  said  it  all.

“High power demand  forces  blackouts  in  some  areas”:  Radio  NZ.

“Things  are  running  tight  this  morning: Transpower  boss’ warning to Kiwis”:  NZ  Herald.

“’So  Third World’ : Government  faces  pressure  after power  blackout” :  Stuff

But  doesn’t  NZ  have  plenty  of  energy?  After  all,  the  Ardern  government – in 2018 – could   rule  out  any  further  offshore  exploration for oil and gas.

And  Energy  Minister  Megan  Woods,  more recently,   has  been complaining  that wholesale  power  prices  are too  high.

It  all  hit home  with dismaying  force   this  week when  – for  the  first time in several  decades – NZ  experienced enforced  power  blackouts.

As  Stuff  reported: 

“The  government is facing serious pressure after rolling power blackouts on one of the coldest nights of the year, with National saying the situation is ‘third world’.” Continue reading “Chilly blast bares the harsh realities – and shortcomings – around Ardern govt’s renewable energy ambitions”

Three new heads of mission are appointed and there are more diplomatic posts to be filled

The   government  has  named   heads  of   mission to three   key  diplomatic  posts, in  Iran, Ethiopia  and Indonesia.

In  announcing them, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta  was  herself  at  her  most  diplomatic.

Mike  Walsh  is to  be Ambassador  to  Iran,  where,  she  says,   NZ  has a  “constructive  relationship, despite  a  number of  challenges”.

Michael  Upton  will  be  Ambassador  to  Ethiopia  where,  according  to  Mahuta, “NZ is taking a strong interest in developments, particularly the current challenges faced in Tigray.”

Kevin Burnett   will  become Ambassador  in Jakarta.   Mahuta  says  NZ “enjoys a strong relationship with Indonesia. As Pacific neighbours, with complementary economies, we are natural partners”.

Walsh,  a career  diplomat, who  has held   postings in Samoa,  Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and  Kiribati,  will  also be accredited to  Pakistan  and Afghanistan.

Mahuta  says the NZ Embassy in Tehran, which opened in 1975, is NZ’s oldest in the Middle East.

Walsh’s  previous  experience includes  working in MFAT’s Development, United Nations and Commonwealth, Environment, Economic, Trade Negotiations, Pacific and most recently Māori Policy division. His iwi affiliations are to Taranaki, Whanganui River, Otaki, and Te Whanganui a Tara.

The  minister – while noting Upton has a professional background in International Development, with extensive experience working across the Pacific region – points  out  NZ and Ethiopia have a traditionally warm relationship underpinned by development co-operation, and long-standing shared multilateral interests.

“Ethiopia is also home to the headquarters of the African Union, and is an important political and economic hub for Africa. Given our values based foreign policy, NZ is taking a strong interest in developments in Ethiopia, particularly the current challenges faced in Tigray.”

Upton joined MFAT in 2008. He has managed the Pacific Economic Development Programme and held several postings to Samoa and Kiribati where he was most recently High Commissioner.

He will also be accredited to, Djibouti, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles and Uganda.

Mahuta  says  NZ  and Indonesia in 2018 have celebrated 60 years of diplomatic relations.

The visit by President Joko Widodo to NZ in March 2018 was the first by an Indonesian President to NZ since 2005. During the visit, leaders announced the elevation of the bilateral relationship to a Comprehensive Partnership, reflecting the increasing value of the relationship.

Burnett is a career public servant and has previously held roles at Defence and the Ministry of Justice.

He was the Chief of Staff at MFAT and principal adviser to the Chief Executive in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Most recently Burnett was the Consul-General to Honolulu and Ambassador to Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, and Republic of the Marshall Islands.

Point   of  Order  understands    Mahuta   has  several  more diplomatic   postings   under  review.  But  onetime  Labour   politicians    who  may  think  they  are  in  line   for   some   of  the  more  prestigious    postings   may  have   to    wait some  time   before   she  discloses  what’s  in  her  mind.

There  has   been  a whisper of Phil  Goff letting it  be  known in  the  upper  echelons of  the Ardern  ministry   that  he  might be  available   for   London  or   Washington,  but   not  till  after  the  local  elections   next  year.

And   Dame  Annette  King,   who  took  up  the  role  of  High  Commissioner   in  Canberra  in  2018   after  30  years  in politics,  may  be  looking  forward  to  her  retirement.  She  celebrates  her 74th  birthday  in September.

It’s just the thing for reducing our leftovers and slops – a trough which has provided almost $1.6m for food waste and composting

The Government has announced funding aimed at reducing food waste, which – according to the United Nations Environment Programme’s 2021 Food Waste Index – is well on the way to becoming a billion-tonne problem around the globe.

In this country, we have a Love Food Hate Waste campaign run by Councils nationwide.  Its activities are  based on research that included surveying 1,365 New Zealanders, examining the contents of 1,402 household rubbish bins and giving 100 families diaries to record food disposal for a week.

Among the findings:

  • Kiwis spend an estimated $872 million a year on food that is thrown away uneaten.
  • We dump over 122,547 tonnes of food a year – enough to feed around 262,917 people.
  • The average household sends around 79 kilograms of edible food to landfills every year.

The UN environment agency’s 2021 Food Waste Index  found an estimated 931 million tonnes of food around the globe ends up in the trash every year.

Most of that figure, 569 million tonnes, falls under the category of household waste.  The food service and retail sectors account for a further 244 and 118 million tonnes, respectively. Continue reading “It’s just the thing for reducing our leftovers and slops – a trough which has provided almost $1.6m for food waste and composting”

Eroad is on the right track – but NZ needs many more such companies to make up for the regulatory drag on dairying

According  to   Fonterra  executive  Marc  Rivers, NZ  has  reached  “peak milk”  and  is entering the  era  of “flat milk”.

It’s  a  warning  particularly  apposite  as  farmers  throughout  the  country  mount  a  protest against a  government  that  has  saddled them with unnecessary regulation  and other burdens as  they work  at producing  the exports  which  are NZ’s  mainstay.

The  broader  question  is   where NZ can turn to  lift or  even maintain  current living standards.

Some  would see   a  salvation  in  the  hi-tech  sector.  Companies  like  Xero, founded  in 2006   by Rod  Drury,  have shown  the  way. It  surpassed  more  than  1m global  customers  in 2017, employs  more than  3000  people,  and  is  a  leading  company  on the  Australian  stock exchange.

Remarkable  tech  companies listed on  the NZX include  Pushpay,  Serko, Gentrack, Enprise, Vista, Smartpay. Continue reading “Eroad is on the right track – but NZ needs many more such companies to make up for the regulatory drag on dairying”

Over $1bn is invested in renewable energy but meanwhile NZ must import coal to generate electricity

Two   of  the  Labour  government’s  major  policies are  to reduce  carbon  emissions  in the  battle against  climate change, and  to   produce 100% of  NZ’s  energy from renewable sources.

So   are those  policies   going?

Reports  this week make  it  clear:  poorly.

So  badly,  indeed, that  Energy  Minister Megan  Woods  could be  living  in  la-la  land.

This  was  her  response  to RNZ’s finding  that in the same year  the government declared a climate emergency, imports of an especially dirty type of coal from Indonesia topped a million tonnes for the first time since 2006:

“This government is not been [sic] satisfied with this reliance on fossil fuels and last year we backed up our goal to have a fully renewable electricity grid with a $30m investigation into solving the dry year problem.

“The NZ Battery project is investigating the country’s potential for pumped hydro, as well as comparator technologies, and is progressing well but will take time.” Continue reading “Over $1bn is invested in renewable energy but meanwhile NZ must import coal to generate electricity”

Hipkins’ officially announces “partnership” plans for research funding but Jackson didn’t post co-governance discussion agenda

Here at Point of Order we first learned – in an emailed press statement from Maori Development Minister Willie Jackson – about the Government’s determination to press on with plans intended to fundamentally change the country’s democratic systems of government and further politically empower Maori.

The objective is to “enhance our partnership with Māori”, which is another way of saying it is is to promote co-governance arrangements whereby the leaders of around 15 per cent of the country’s population are assured of the same decision-making rights as the elected representatives of 85 per cent of the population (although elected representatives are supposed to serve all of their communities).

Jackson  insists it is not a done deal – it will be discussed.

But first it will be discussed among Maori.      

Significantly, Jackson’s statement can not be found on The Beehive website, the official website of the Government of New Zealand which boasts it is

“.. the best place to find Government initiatives, policies and Ministerial information.”

Education Chris Hipkins has been doing his bit for a Maori-Crown partnership, too, but at least The Beehive website does record his intentions.

He has announced race-based changes to the way the Government funds the country’s scientists and researchers.

He said the Government is building on the successes of the Performance-Based Research Fund “to ensure a stronger, fairer, more diverse tertiary education system”.

He is vague about what the changes will be but all too clear in advising us they are being based  on the government’s highly contentious ideas about the Treaty partnership.  

In the upshot, it’s not the merits of a project that matter and Maori researchers can count on being given a bigger share of the funding than they are getting now.   

An independent review of the fund settings and targeted consultation with the research sector has resulted in changes “to ensure the fund is fair and best represents New Zealand”. 

These changes

“… will better recognise the range of research excellence our tertiary education organisations produce,”


“The more holistic approach favoured in the review and through the feedback received will see the partnership between Māori and the Crown better provided for, with greater recognition of the contributions of Māori researchers and research.

“It will also better reward research that has important implications for Māori communities, and wider New Zealand society.”

Strengthening funding for research that reflects the growing diversity in New Zealand is another key component to the changes, with additional credit for the work of Pacific, disabled and early-career researchers and research.

“These changes [the details are absent from the press statement] reflect our commitment to equity and wellbeing outcomes, and our vision for a sustainable, diverse and representative research workforce.”

  Hipkins’ statement is consistent with the progress towards co-governance signalled in Jackson’s announcement.

The emailed statement headed Next steps for Declaration plan on indigenous rights was sent from Jackson’s office at 12:01 pm yesterday under an embargo permitting its publication at 1.30pm.

But many members of the public who do not have Jackson’s statements emailed to them might have learned first about the latest manoeuvrings on the gradual dismantling of our democracy  in a National Party press statement posted on the Scoop site:

He Puapua Is Not The Way Forward For New Zealand

Thursday, 1 July 2021, 3:28 pm

Press Release: New Zealand National Party

The Government has tried to down play Minister for Māori Development Willie Jacksons announcement today as a simple consultation process, but in truth it is an indication of what is to come, Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins says.

Ten minutest later, Scoop posted this:

 Next Steps For Declaration Plan On Indigenous Rights

Thursday, 1 July 2021, 3:38 pm

Press Release: New Zealand Government

Minister for Māori Development Willie Jackson has today announced the next steps in developing a national plan to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the Declaration).

In this statement, Jackson said this builds on the previous National Government’s decision to sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

“… and will enhance our partnership with Māori”.

This is the partnership that – look as hard as you might – can not be found in the Treaty of  Waitangi.

In the next phase of the exercise in fostering co-governance the Government will work through a two-step process, which will begin with “targeted engagement over the next few months” with “key” tribes and “significant Māori organisations” on how they wish to be involved.

And then – hurrah – Jackson assures is there will be “wide public consultation with New Zealanders on a draft Declaration plan”.

Jackson assures us:

“As we have previously said He Puapua is not government policy nor the basis of a declaration plan. Instead it is a starting point for discussion.”

He further said New Zealand’s position has continued to be that the Declaration must satisfy several fundamental requirements including:

  • Being consistent with international law, and New Zealand law and policy;
  • Protecting the rights of all citizens; and
  • Safeguarding territorial integrity and political unity, as well as the responsibility of all democratically elected governments to govern for the welfare of all their citizens.

This doesn’t sound too threatening, constitutionally, to people who have fought for democracy and their descendants who want to preserve democratic governance arrangements.

But then Jackson says: 

“This Government is focused on improving the wellbeing of Māori communities, addressing inequity issues for Māori and fulfilling our obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and this is one part of that mahi.”

Those obligations are constantly being re-written by judges, politicians, academics and the Waitangi Tribunal.  

Under this government they have provided the rationale for a raft of divisive policies that split the country into a Maori constituency and a non-Maori one.  

 Latest from the Beehive 

 (at time of writing)


More vaccinators coming on board for COVID-19 campaign

Retired and overseas-trained health professionals and the wider health workforce can now join New Zealand’s expanding vaccinator workforce, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced.

After the Government changed Medicines Regulations to allow more health workers to be trained to give vaccinations, Health Minister Chris Hipkins called on retired nurses, people who have trained overseas but are not registered here, and those in the kaiāwhina workforce – who work in our health system already in roles such as healthcare assistants – to join the vaccinator team. 

More than 12,500 people have already logged their details in the Hands-Up database, which is designed to capture a broad range of skills and backgrounds for different roles.

DHBs have been following up with potential candidates to recruit people as the government scales up the vaccination programme.

The Immunisation Advisory Centre has trained more than 8,100 COVID-19 vaccinators from across the health sector since the beginning of the year.

Current projections are that the government will need 1,600 full-time equivalent vaccinators at the peak of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out. This means 6,000 to 6,500 people will be needed. 


Matariki holiday dates for next thirty years announced

The Government has released the recommended dates for the Matariki public holiday for the next 30 years to give communities and businesses certainty.

New Zealand will celebrate Matariki as a public holiday from next year, beginning on 24 June 2022. The calendar date for the Matariki public holiday will shift each year to align with the maramataka (Māori lunar calendar) and will always be on a Friday.

Matariki is the Māori name for the Pleiades, and refers to a cluster of stars that rises in mid-winter, marking the start of the Māori New Year. Some tribues name this time of year Puanga, after a bright star that is above and to the right of the Matariki constellation.

 Research funding

Performance-Based Research Fund to be fairer, more diverse

 The Government is building on the successes of the Performance-Based Research Fund to ensure a stronger, fairer, more diverse tertiary education system, Education Minister Chris Hipkins says.

Following an independent review of the fund settings and targeted consultation with the research sector, changes are being made to ensure the fund is fair and best represents New Zealand. 

The changes will better recognise the range of research excellence our tertiary education organisations produce, better provide for “the partnership between Māori and the Crown”, and give greater recognition to the contributions of Māori researchers and research.

The Tertiary Education Commission is appointing a Sector Reference Group. It will be made up of members from across the tertiary education sector who can contribute critical sector expertise and knowledge to implement the changes.

More information about the Performance-Based Research Fund can be found on the Ministry of Education and TEC websites:


New ferries to reduce emissions and strengthen link between islands

Investing in two new, rail-enabled Interislander ferries will help reduce transport emissions and support more goods and people crossing the Cook Strait, Transport Minister Michael Wood said.

KiwiRail has formally signed a contract with Korea’s Hyundai Mipo Dockyard to build two new Interislander ferries which will replace the existing, ageing fleet. The new ferries are expected to arrive in New Zealand in 2025 and 2026. 

The new ferries will reduce the Interislander’s carbon emissions by 40 per cent with initiatives like using battery power for manoeuvring. They are also “future-proofed” so that more batteries can be added over time and they can be modified to run on other low-carbon fuels like hydrogen as they become available in the future.


A matter of the right connections – Robertson tells of his digital discussion with APEC politicians and business leaders

We do admire the language employed by our Ministers – and/or their spin doctors – for their pronouncements.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson, for example, tells us that finance ministers and business leaders from across the APEC region “have connected” to discuss the ongoing response to COVID-19.

It was a connection facilitated by the internet and digital technology.

The session was an innovation introduced for APEC 2021, making best use of the digital format to bring together people from across the region for an informal discussion.

“This encouraged an open conversation between participants who might not otherwise have had an opportunity to come together during the APEC year. It enabled attendees to gain a deeper understanding of the issues affecting the region and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead,” Grant Robertson said.

“The views of business leaders and the discussions at this meeting have been valuable and will feed into conversations between Ministers at the Finance Ministers’ Meeting in October.” Continue reading “A matter of the right connections – Robertson tells of his digital discussion with APEC politicians and business leaders”