So, let’s just be honest with the situation, it’s not a good look that Nanaia’s relatives were consultants in projects that she oversees.
The perception of cronyism or nepotism is almost as bad as actual cronyism and nepotism, but as a Nanaia fanboy, allow me to offer a defence not only of 3 Waters but her role as Foreign Minister when China is being so aggressive in the South Pacific.
Firstly, it’s important to note that Nanaia has done everything by the book, the Cabinet Manual is very clear when there are conflicts of interest and those have all been managed, so let’s not forget that. You might not like the outcome, but the due process for managing conflicts of interest have been followed.
Secondly, it’s almost impossible to do anything in the Māori world without a conflict of interest, they are all everyones cousin or Aunty or Uncle etc etc, that is the basic cultural norm, everyone is connected, so let’s acknowledge that and understand that before we start criticising.
Thirdly, where I am critical of Nanaia is in her pussyfooting around with the 3 water assets. Rather than tell them at the start that they could opt out, she should have simply seized all the water assets using the Public Works Act!
Here’s what she needs to do with 3 Waters.
- Nationalise the bloody water to ensure water infrastructure and clean water.
- Make sure it can’t be privatised by ACT and National.
- Make sure no corporate Iwi are making profits from these changes.
- Stop Chinese companies bottling our water and taking it.
As for criticism of her leadership in the Pacific while China is pushing into our sphere, I think her Royal ties with the other Pacific Royal Families will provide a unique entry point China can’t access.
It is true that we need new strategies and tactics in the Pacific.
Auckland is the largest Pacific Island City and we do little to celebrate or leverage off that. We need to look at offering fundamental migration opportunities for Tuvalu, Tokelau and Kiribati who face the worst impacts of climate change but we also need to think outside the square in terms of not only countering Chinese influence but beating it.
I think two ways NZ could uniquely promote its interests into the Pacific against China could be via Rugby Diplomacy and Journalism.
The All Blacks doing a tour of the South Pacific would actually be of huge cultural and sporting importance and something the Government should sponsor with taxpayer dollars to help subsidise the costs to the All Blacks as a sign of respect to the sporting and cultural contribution Pacific Island nations have provided NZ.
Why shouldn’t we use Rugby as a diplomatic tool to build standing throughout the Pacific? It’s something China couldn’t match and something NZ could excel at.
Likewise Journalism. AUT run the excellent Pacific Media Centre to promote quality Journalism throughout the Pacific. What if NZ saw the promotion of quality Journalism as a craft throughout the Pacific as a strong way to counter corruption and Chinese influence? Scholarships, Pacific News Media websites, support of local ethical journalism these could be the pillars of promoting corruption free politics and holding those Governments to account.
Rugby diplomacy and promotion of Journalistic standards throughout the Pacific could counter China and promote NZs strategic interests.
We can’t outspend China, but we can play a far smarter game and I believe Nanaia is part of that smarter game.
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