Novichok II

Written By: - Date published: 12:39 pm, July 6th, 2018 - 48 comments
Categories: International, uk politics - Tags:

Moscow’s using the UK as a dumping ground for poison after the hospitalisation of two unemployed people with a room in a homeless hostel.

At least, that’s what the UK’s Home Secretary is saying these days. And Russia must explain what the hell is going on, in spite of the fact that Russia has previously been accused of losing control of its stocks of nerve agents, even though the OPCW verified the destruction of the Russian Federation’s chemical weapons in 2017. Meanwhile, no evidence connecting the Russian government to the poisoning of the Skripals has been produced.

As far as I can gather, we’re to believe that a team of highly trained Russian door handle poisoners, swabbed the door handle of the Skripal’s home in Salisbury…and then drove away along B roads instead of taking the obvious A roads out of there, and wound up in Amesbury about eight miles away, where they threw away the container containing the poison. Something like that anyway.

And sure, it’s possible.

Then again, it’s also possible that back in May, when the Director General of the OPCW claimed in an interview with the New York Times, that he’d been informed that up to 100g of Novichok was kicking about (that up to 100g may have been used in Salisbury), that his information was accurate enough. The entire story was subsequently pulled (not amended or updated) and the OPCW issued a statement saying there was no way they could possibly ascertain the quantities of agent used in the Salisbury attack. And that seems reasonable enough.

But not knowing what quantity of an agent was used in a particular incident, and not knowing the quantity of an agent available for use are two entirely different matters.

Back in May, I did a post on the Guardian’s reporting of the Üzümcü interview. Brigid commented that she’d sought to find the name of who-ever told Üzümcü there was up to 100g of Novichok by dropping a line to the journalist who interviewed him. She didn’t get a response. I also dropped the first of two emails to the OPCW asking who had given that information to Üzümcü. But apparently there was nothing to add to the OPCW press release that followed off the back of Üzümcü’s interview.

But I can’t see why Üzümcü would pull the figure of 100g from out of his arse, and am persuaded to think he was indeed told, by a source he’d consider to be reliable or reputable, that authorities were looking at that sort of quantity. The thing is, that removes the Russian Federation from the picture. Obviously.

And then we are simply left asking whose inventory of Novichok is shy by some 100g. That’s who has lost control of their chemical weapons. That’s who has a lot of explaining to do. And I’d be thinking that who-ever told Üzümcü about that 100g (if their information is accurate) leads right back to where we need to go.

Porton Down, the UK’s chemical research facility, is a few miles away btw. And I think I’m right in saying that it must have samples of Novichok or else it could never have identified the substance used in Salisbury. Which may or may not have anything to do with anything. Much like the Russian Federation may or may not have anything to do with anything.

Whatever it is that has happened, is happening, or will happen, I do wish journalists and the employers they work for were less accommodating to official spin; that they were a lot more critical, curious and tenacious.

48 comments on “Novichok II”

  1. McFlock 1

    Fewer cameras on B roads.
    You don’t need physical comparators to identify a chemical structure.
    As for whose inventory is shy by 100 grams or milligrams, that relies on them reporting their full production of it, no?

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    And I think I’m right in saying that it must have samples of Novichok or else it could never have identified the substance used in Salisbury.

    That would be failed logic.

    How to test for any known chemical would be written down. All they’d have to do is to perform the needed tests and see if they get the noted reaction. No need to have their own source of Novichok.

    • Bill 2.1

      Failed logic and incomplete knowledge or lack of knowledge. Two different things Draco.

  3. Drowsy M. Kram 3

    F*****g commies Ruskies, is no one safe? #RussianToJudgement

    http://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/land-at-porton-down-masterplan-2007-february.pdf

    “Masterplan” 😉

    A workforce of ~4000 in 2007. Imagine one disgruntled/unwell employee or former employee – the stuff of fiction?

  4. Stuart Munro 4

    Your assertion that Porton Down must have had samples of Novichoks and that someone would be able to abstract 100g from there is fanciful.

    Russia is the only country known to have possessed significant stocks, and it also had lax security for some of them, which precipitated the US funded destruction program.

    Your Porton Down scenario requires two steps – both creation of Novichok agents, and someone getting them out undetected. Small quantities of rare nerve agents created for specific work in a research facility are probably not as accessible as poorly warehoused weapon stockpiles. The Russian scenario only requires someone to have abstracted some of stocks already known to have existed – one step.

    Only a perverse determination to exculpate Russia prefers the more complex explanation given the absence of evidence.

    • Bill 4.1

      Gee Stuart. Where is it that I “assert [..] someone would be able to abstract 100g (of Novickok from Porta Down)”?

      Don’t bother looking, because the fact is that I haven’t asserted any such fucking thing.

      Where are you getting the information that allows you to assert that” Russia is the only country known to have possessed significant stocks”?

      Why are you asserting there are stocks of various(?) nerve and chemical weapons in the Russian Federation when the OPCW has verified the destruction of said stocks? There must be some basis for that particular assertion, no?

      And how “rare” do you think the group of chemicals labeled as Novichok by some western governments actually is? Iran developed some. And reported as such to the OPCW. You don’t think other countries and/or other facilities can produce or have produced the stuff?

      All that aside, it seems you are not paying attention. In the posts I’ve done on this, I’ve simply been asking where the evidence is (where-ever it may point) and/or questioning aspects of what we’re being fed on the grounds that it comes across as bullshit. (Bad mushroom!).

      If that’s “perverse determination” in your book, then hey, what can I say? Why don’t you just you carry on clinging tenaciously as you get reeled in, if that’s your thing?

      • Stuart Munro 4.1.1

        “Where are you getting the information that allows you to assert that” Russia is the only country known to have possessed significant stocks”?”

        It’s a matter of public record that they did – The OPCW report described them and the conditions in which they were stored. You could of course try to produce evidence of other country’s stocks, but given that these are usually secret, and no evidence has surfaced thus far of such programs you’d struggle. A research paper is not a production facility, much less a series of warehouses and compounds secured by simple padlocks and sporadically guarded.

        I’m sure the OPCW are wonderful, but the ability to detect 100g of forbidden materials in a country making up half a continent is not one they possess.

        Peverse determination it is – you have no new evidence – you’re simply wasting our time.

        • Bill 4.1.1.1

          Peverse determination it is – you have no new evidence – you’re simply wasting our time.

          New evidence?

          I have no evidence. But neither, it seems, does anyone else. So that leaves the main difference between me and others, not on the evidence front, but on the pointing of accusatory fingers front, aye?

          • Stuart Munro 4.1.1.1.1

            There is evidence – both the victims and the modus operandii are linked to Russia. The investigation proceeds. Your denials nothwithstanding.

            • mauī 4.1.1.1.1.1

              The last victim was a known heroin user, not a vodka drinker or anything like that.

              • Bill

                Possibly an unemployed user of heroin with some awkward explaining to do given his address in a pricey area of town. (Muggleton Rd)

                And I’m surprised no-one has gone for a “taking out Muggles” angle. Where’s Draco?

  5. Treetop 5

    The life of novichok has been reported to be effective 4 years later.

    The background of the latest people affected by it, what the link is needs to be established.

    • Gristle 5.1

      I think the comment about the expected potent life novichoc needs some explanation as surely to be highly toxic bl nerve agent it would breakdown reasonably quickly in rain and sunlight. My guess is that the 4 year figure being raised was in relation to a sealed package and in good storage conditions. Any insights?

      While we are on the topic of nerve agents, any update on why green mussels from Marlborough Sounds have stopped being sold? Perhaps we have our very own source of paralytic nerve toxins.

      • Graeme 5.1.1

        There’s a paralytic shellfish poisoning alert for Pelorus Sound

        https://www.mpi.govt.nz/travel-and-recreation/fishing/shellfish-biotoxin-alerts/

        These are pretty common, and nothing new.

      • Treetop 5.1.2

        I heard the time frame on the midday news. You are correct in asking what the storage condition is. I do not know the answer.

        • Treetop 5.1.2.1

          According to the now – retired scientist,
          “novichok” can bury itself in paint, trees, and perhaps, in wooden benches: “It can get in and remain there for a very long time. If it is on a neutral surface, it will only degrade on account of evaporation. And that would be a long process.”

          https://www.independent.co.uk

          • Brigid 5.1.2.1.1

            “In fact, rain affecting the “novichok” on the door handle was given as the reason that the Skripals were not killed. But now the properties of the agent have to fit a new narrative, so they transmute again.
            It keeps happening. Do you remember when Novichok was the most deadly of substances, many times more powerful than VX or Sarin, and causing death in seconds? But then, when that needed to be altered to fit the government’s Skripal story, they found scientists to explain that actually no, it was pretty slow acting, absorbed gradually through the skin, and not all that deadly.
            Scientists are an interesting bunch. More than willing to ascribe whatever properties fit the government’s ever more implausible stories, in exchange for an MSM appearance fee, 5 minutes of fame and the fond hope of a research grant.”
            Craig Murray

            https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2018/07/the-amesbury-mystery/

            The whole article is rather entertaining.
            Except for those who are horrified as Russia’s so called attempt at the genocide of Brits two by two.

            • Treetop 5.1.2.1.1.1

              Vladimir Uglyov one of the men credited with inventing the “novichok” series of nerve agents is the now retired scientist.

              Dangerous to have a substance which the long term effect is unknown.

              • Brigid

                Yes but he says
                “In order to make it easier to understand the subject matter, I will not use the name “Novichok” which has is now commonly used by everyone to describe those four substances which were conditionally assigned to me to develop over a period of several years. Three of these substances are part of the “Foliant” program, which was led by Pyotr Kirpichev, a scientist with GOSNIIOKHT (State Scientific-Research Institute for Organic Chemistry and Technology). The first substance of a new class of organophosphorous chemical agents, I will call it “A-1972”, was developed by Kirpichev in 1972. In 1976, I developed two substances: “B-1976” and “C-1976”. The fourth substance, “D-1980”, was developed by Kirpichev in the early 1980s. All of these substances fall under the group referred to as “Novichkov”, but that name wasn’t given to the substances by GOSNIIOKHT.”

                https://thebell.io/en/the-scientist-who-developed-novichok-doses-ranged-from-20-grams-to-several-kilos/

                • Treetop

                  Thanks for the link.

                  The fact that the substance can be transported and on a cotton ball in a prepared container, it could not be detected in a person’s luggage.

  6. Ike 6

    First the Russians were accused of poisoning an ex agent who they had in custody for years and ample opportunity to dispose of, and his irrelevant daughter. Now they are accused of poisoning two completely inconsequential persons. Wake up and smell the truth. These incidents are contrived by the UK intelligence services whenever positive news about Russia is about. Oh yeah and where are the Skripals now? Word is Yulia’s cousin says she wants to return to Russia. That bastion of freedom the UK will surely allow that to happen. sarc.

  7. Brigid 7

    And then theres this:

    Swindon Fire RDS
    “77 mile round trip for our Operational Support Unit last night to Amesbury.
    Thankfully the incident wasn’t serious and our decontamination shower wasn’t required”

    “An incident in the Kings Gate are of Amesbury on Saturday evening 30 June is thought to have bee a drug-related medical episode.
    A number of roads around the estate were closed for a time but re-opened within a couple of hours”

    The original tweet by Swindon Fire RDS has been deleted.

  8. AB 8

    The Russians killed my cat. Poor thing.
    Most likely a tiny dose of Morganov on the catflap. It’s not so much a nerve agent as a ‘get on the nerves’ agent.

  9. Booker 9

    I’m with you, the whole situation is extremely suspicious, and not because it points to Russia. I saw the graphic in the Guardian of the locations, and that both are a short drive from Porton Down, and it reminded me of this case: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Edwards_Ivins

    Shortly after 9/11 anthrax started turning up in envelopes around the US. There was never enough evidence to charge Bruce Ivans and he committed suicide while being investigated, but he was the lead suspect (and no one else was ever charged as far as I know).

    Seems to me that a more likely scenario than Russia poisoning random people on UK soil is that someone with access is doing this.

    • dukeofurl 9.1

      The interesting thing about Bruce Ivins, apart from the very weak evidence used against him by the FBI who closed the case with his being committed to psychiatric hospital and then convenient death.

      Results of the investigation were initially distributed to the public via ABC News claiming “four well placed sources” attesting to the fact that “trace amounts of the chemical additives bentonite” were found in the anthrax samples, and that this was the chemical signature of Iraqi-made anthrax.[33] It has been confirmed that bentonite was never actually found in the anthrax samples.

      So ABC news was used to plant a false connection to so called ‘Iraqi Anthrax’

      Do we see a picture of how western security agencies use these chemical incidents ?

    • Grtaeme 9.2

      “that someone with access is doing this.”

      The proximity to Porton Downs, along with “access” could be purely coincidental.

      I’m thinking more along the lines of a fuckup by the local parks and reserves dept or farmers, spraying an organophosphate and another incompatible agrochemical too close together in space or time. There’s plenty of combinations that can be quite nasty.

      I’ve heard several instances where stock have been killed by spray interactions effectively creating an organophosphate nerve agent. Interactions are are often linked to “drift” incidents as well.

      exkiwiforces made a comment a while ago about being a bit of a hazzard to life and limb with the contents of a garden shed, I think this is what he was alluding to.

      Once the first victim happened to be an ex Russian who had a difference of understanding with the regime, paranoia hit factor 11 and it was all on.

  10. corodale 10

    Paraglided in, and escaped down river discused as a large beaver, to catch a waiting submarine back to Atlantis. It was Putin himself, maintaining proficiencies. A family of beavers have come forward as witness, to the delight of conservation workers.

  11. mauī 11

    This keeps on providing the lol’s. Smart people trying to explain the absolutely absurd.

    • Brigid 12.1

      Note the bbc don’t provide a link to the report, at the risk of looking as stupid as they are.
      “The FFM team needs to continue its work to draw final conclusions regarding the alleged incident and, to this end, the investigation is ongoing.”

      https://www.opcw.org/fileadmin/OPCW/S_series/2018/en/s-1645-2018_e_.pdf

      • Bill 12.1.1

        So the BBC headlines with the announcement that the OPCW have stated chlorine gas was used.

        But when you bring up the pdf you linked and word search chlorine, it’s mentioned precisely twice in the main body of text –

        There were mixed reports of what toxic chemicals had been used, with some citing chlorine and others citing sarin, or mixtures of chlorine and sarin.

        And under annex 3 some (among many others) samples from those cylinders that came through a roof, ran across a floor and set themselves down on a bed for a snooze. Remember them? (No CWC – scheduled chemicals found)

        Lots of TNT residue. (2,4,6-Trinitrotoluene). Some chemicals routinely found in wood and clothes (flame retardants, surfactants for textiles etc)

        • Incognito 12.1.1.1

          No Sarin. On pg. 10:

          Analysis results

          8.7 The results of analysis of the prioritised samples submitted to the designated laboratories were received by the FFM team on 22 May 2018. No organophosphorus nerve agents or their degradation products were detected, either in the environmental samples or in plasma samples from the alleged casualties. Various chlorinated organic chemicals were found in samples from Locations 2 and 4, along with residues of explosive. These results are reported in Annex 3. Work by the team to establish the significance of these results is ongoing. [my bold]

          In fact, the information in the bolded part appeared 8 times in the document.
          Add “chlorinated” to the search and you’ll find three instances in the document.

          Coincidentally, Shoko Asahara got executed yesterday: https://www.stuff.co.nz/world/asia/105294255/japans-doomsday-cult-leader-behind-sarin-gas-attack-is-executed

  12. Incognito 13

    And I think I’m right in saying that it must have samples of Novichok or else it could never have identified the substance used in Salisbury.

    No, that’s an incorrect assumption and substance identification does not rely on an authentic sample to be present at the time of testing for a direct comparison. Think of breathalysers or illicit substance testing at airports, for example. Put differently, you don’t need the finger to compare fingerprints and make a positive identification (that stands up in court); same applies to DNA samples.

    • Bill 13.1

      Yup. I get that I was wrong on that front.

      • Incognito 13.1.1

        No worries, we live & learn.

        As far as I know they have not released anything to show they ‘identified’ the substance allegedly used in Salisbury. Nothing that can be scrutinised by independent people (experts), nothing at all. It is in the public interest, I’d say, to be as open & transparent as possible and gets as many facts in the public arena as possible!

      • francesca 13.1.2

        Well Bill
        I think we can safely assume that Porton Down would most certainly have samples of the novichok group

        https://www.dailysabah.com/europe/2018/05/17/germany-received-novichok-sample-from-russian-defector-in-90s-report-says

        https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/russian-defector-gave-novichok-sample-to-germany-in-90s-report-1853524

        second link pretty much the same

        And incognito, to match a dna sample, one must already have a sample to match up against
        Having a hair and nothing else will get you nowhere
        The same for a fingerprint, there must be a physical sample in the system to match with

        • Incognito 13.1.2.1

          Hi Francesca,

          To match DNA or a fingerprint you only need the data generated from an original sample. This data is usually (but not always) transformed and stored in digitised format.

          Without that data from an original sample to authenticate or to confirm the identity of a sample all is not lost. For example, when a compound is synthesised for the first time it has to be properly identified, checked, confirmed, and authenticated by various techniques with stringent limits of acceptance (confidence). The point is that the same can be done with an unknown sample and it is entirely possible to confirm Novichok even in the absence of an original sample or authentic standard.

          With a hair sample you can establish quite a few things, e.g. whether it is human, sex, etc. In any case, strictly speaking a DNA match won’t tell you that the sample and an original came from one and the same individual; it will tell you how likely (or unlikely rather) the two samples match as well they do by chance alone (i.e. samples from two different individuals).

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNA_profiling#Considerations_when_evaluating_DNA_evidence

          • One Two 13.1.2.1.1

            Novice is the translation…

            If you can match the chemicals you can manufacture the agent…

            • Incognito 13.1.2.1.1.1

              If you can match the chemicals you can manufacture the agent…

              Can you please explain this for me?

  13. Siobhan 14

    Gee, Russian secret agents/assassins aren’t very good at their job really.

    They would have to have the competence level of Mr Bean to pull this off.

    Wait a few months for the next dodgy victims and then sit back and laugh as they try to join the dots.

  14. dukeofurl 15

    We seem to be looking too closely at reports from the UK media expecting ‘information’
    The D Notice system is still in operation, or as they became DA notices and now DMSA

    https://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/jul/31/d-notice-system-state-media-press-freedom

    examples of recent use:
    ‘The Observer kept secret its 2004 revelation about a memo showing Britain helped the US conduct a secret and potentially illegal spying operation at the UN in the runup to the Iraq war.’

    and
    ‘And the Guardian did not consult the DA-notice secretary before publishing first Snowden leaks , although it did so with subsequent stories.’

    This site says they have seen copies of some DMSA for the Skripals case
    https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/12746/spinwatch-publish-confidential-media-d-notices-skripal-case

  15. cleangreen 16

    Another ‘gotta russian moment hatched by NATO’

    NATO wont stop building another case of a war with Russia untill they are singled out as ‘war mongers’.

    NATO are controlled by European corporations and war armaments supplliers.

    These captains of EU industry want bussiness to increase now because the banks are about to fail, and they want to take land off Russia again.

    By the way the NATO are holding a summit in two seeks before they began this next Novichok event as the time seems to suggest it was staged, before this NATO meeting planned, so we are in a planing mode to antoher European war in 2 -10 yrs or less.

  16. francesca 17

    Well Bill
    I think we can safely assume that Porton Down would most certainly have samples of the novichok group

    https://www.dailysabah.com/europe/2018/05/17/germany-received-novichok-sample-from-russian-defector-in-90s-report-says

    https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/russian-defector-gave-novichok-sample-to-germany-in-90s-report-1853524

    second link pretty much the same

    And incognito, to match a dna sample, one must already have a sample to match up against
    Having a hair and nothing else will get you nowhere
    The same for a fingerprint, there must be a physical sample in the system to match with
    sorry if this damn well repeats
    god dammit , it has!

  17. Lola 18

    Saturday 30 June – Trowbridge – is this just another Wiltshire registered Methadone junkie in a poisoning “incident” ?
    http://www.wiltshiretimes.co.uk/news/16323717.six-emergency-services-vehicles-attend-trowbridge-medical-incident/?ref=twtrec

  18. Liberal Realist 19

    Realpolitik manifests itself in some very strange ways doesn’t it? Dam those evil Russians wanting their independence and sovereignty! How dare they.

    Seems Russia is to blame for any number of things from ‘election hacking’ with the purpose of putting Trump in the White House, to not quite knocking off a useless turncoat for an unknown transgression.

    Not that evidence is important in ascribing culpability these days is it? If it’s chemical, it must have been Russia!

    Quite the coincidence the UK’s only chemical / bio weapons labratory happens to be located within less than 10 miles from the location of both incidents… Has Porton Downs been infiltrated by the Russians perhaps?

    Guess the football world cup in Russia is just going far too well for the UK establishment to stomach?

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  • 608 claims resolved by GCCRS in first year
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  • NZ economy in good shape
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    6 days ago
  • NZTA to refocus on safety following review
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  • Joint Cooperation Statement on Climate Change between the Netherlands and New Zealand
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  • Government putting right Holidays Act underpayment in Health
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  • Government accounts show strong economy
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  • Ministers approve application to expand Waihi mine
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    7 days ago
  • Tuia 250 Voyage flotilla launches with tribute to tangata whenua
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  • Visit to advance trade agenda with Europe and the Commonwealth
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  • Boost for women in high performance sport
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  • Parent support to help retain skilled migrants
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  • Senior NZDF Officer to lead Peacekeeping Mission in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt
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  • Nurses star as Govt rebuilds health workforces
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  • New agricultural trade envoy appointed
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  • Pacific and Māori voyaging heritage celebrated for Tuia 250
    New Zealand’s Pacific and Māori voyaging heritage is acknowledged and celebrated today as waka of the Tuia 250 voyage flotilla arrive in Tūranga / Gisborne. “Today we celebrate Tangata Whenua, the first people of Aotearoa, and the triumphs of the voyaging tradition that brought our ancestors here from Polynesia 1000 ...
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  • NZ Government establishes innovative, industry-focused Airspace Integration Trials Programme
    The Government is establishing an Airspace Integration Trials Programme to support the safe testing and development of advanced unmanned aircraft and accelerate their integration into the aviation system, Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods announced today. The Government will work with leading, innovative aviation industry partners to test and ...
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  • Safety upgrades and certainty for Ōtaki highway
    Transport Minister Phil Twyford today welcomed the NZ Transport Agency’s decision to fund urgent safety improvements and confirm the designation of the Ōtaki to North of Levin highway. Safety upgrades will be made along 23.4km of the existing state highway, running along SH1 from the end of the Peka Peka ...
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    2 weeks ago
  • Playing our part to support refugees in our region and the world
    New Zealand playing its part in Asia-Pacific and globally are behind changes announced today to the Coalition Government’s three year refugee quota policy, Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says. “We are proud to be a welcoming and inclusive nation committed to supporting some of the world’s most vulnerable people to rebuild ...
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  • Supporting thriving inclusive communities
    Creating thriving regions and inclusive local communities is the aim of the Welcoming Communities programme being rolled out across the country, says Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway today. A successful pilot of the scheme ran over the last 2 years led by Immigration New Zealand and involved ten councils across five regions ...
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  • Takahē population flying high
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    2 weeks ago
  • New Zealand makes further climate commitments
    New Zealand is today taking action to reduce the potent global warming hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) gases, Climate Minister James Shaw and Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage announced today. “The global agreement to reduce these potent greenhouse gases is another step in New Zealand’s commitment to reduce global warming. It is estimated ...
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    2 weeks ago