Policy by focus group

Written By: - Date published: 1:19 pm, August 15th, 2008 - 13 comments
Categories: youtube - Tags: ,

Colin Espiner on the Nats’ energy policy:

…National’s energy policy is conservative and lacking in new ideas… What it has delivered is a short-term, pragmatic policy lacking in vision. But unlike Labour, it is probably a policy in step with current public opinion.

Maybe these kinds of flaccid policy statements are inevitable when you: (a) painstakingly sterilise your publicly released policy for traces of your ideological DNA and (b) attempt to command majority support of the electorate by tightly tailoring policy to satisfy their desires.

But is it any way to run a country?

The two minute clip below from the BBC series “The Century of the Self” puts it perfectly. We’ve posted on it before here. All four full episodes can be found here on Google video.

Ps. Check out the “Ambitions for Britain” imagery at the start of the clip. Look familiar?

13 comments on “Policy by focus group ”

  1. Anita 1

    I reckon Theo’s focus groups are one of the best bits of The Hollowmen, well along with Warren’s powerpoints.

    I fear both are pretty accurate though.

  2. outofbed 2

    As a Green I am disgusted by Nationals Energy and RMA policies
    They are a joke
    This weekend Nick Smith will be at Ecofest Nelson on a stall ‘greenwashing’ as per usual
    I intend to give him heaps

  3. all_your_base – Shock, horror. Those nasty tories use focus groups. Big deal, so does Labour; so does pretty much every party.

    It’s your birthday mate; lighten up, not everything has to be part of the VRWC!

  4. Rex Widerstrom 4

    Urgh the guy speaking is out of sync… that’s lke nails on a blackboard to someone who makes video *shudders* However, after closing one eye and concentrating mainly on the sound…

    This raises a much larger question than the Nat’s energy policy. There’s a lot of people involved in some way in politics – myself included – who’d like to see the process become vastly more democratic.

    I’ve always thought focus groups were a nonsense – far too small a sample size to get decent feeback on ideas, though sometimes good for brainstorming new ideas that wouldn’t occur to people too steeped in poltical traditions.

    But I’ve also been a vocal supporter of referenda, at one point campaigning very hard for them to be held via electronic means so as to make them less expensive and thus more frequent.

    Without writing an entire tome as a blog comment, in short I’ve got a great deal of confidence in what has become known as “the wisdom of crowds”, and a very strong belief that people have the right to as much input into the process as can reasonably be afforded them.

    But as this series admirably shows (I wish the networks would run it every election year) this philosophy can go horribly wrong.

    So what is a “reasonable” level of public participation in the political process? How much should politicians lead and to what extent should they follow?

    I think this is a national discussion we need to have… maybe as part of any debate around retention of MMP?

    But in the meantime I’ll be interested to read anybody else’s thoughts on the matter…

  5. all_your_base 5

    Inventory2 – it’d be a criticim of Labour too if I thought that’s what they based their policy on. I don’t think you can have it both ways though – Labour is frequently accused of having pursued policy that was unpopular but principled – surely this distinguishes them from a party that’s singular focus is re-election by keeping its real intentions under wraps and dropping the rest of its policy out of the ass end of focus groups. I think the clip also does a great job of explaining why Key is so vulnerable to Labour’s accusations of shallowness and slipperiness.

  6. insider 6

    Hmmm whatever happened to closing the gaps?

    Carbon neutral?

    Top half of the OECD?

    Tax cuts?

    No focus groups involved there of course.

  7. all_your_base 7

    Sorry insider, I’ve never been great at sarcasm. What’s your point?

  8. naughtybynature 8

    attempt to command majority support of the electorate by tightly tailoring policy to satisfy their desires

    Sounds quite democratic to me. After all they are our elected REPRESENTATIVES their to REPRESENT the views of those that elect them.

  9. Ari 9

    Rex- electronic referenda would discriminate against the poor and introduce self-selection to votes. (ie. it’s less likely everyone would always vote, and thus votes would be disproportionately effected by vocal minorities) I’m all for more representation, but I think referenda have their own issues too, and we should be wary of just thinking they’re some sort of magic bullet.

    Naughtybynature- which is okay, to a degree, if:
    a) The politicians genuinely intend to do that and we feel we can trust them.
    b) We trust public opinion to come up with the correct answer on every issue.

    Whether you trust the nats or not, the problem is that the public can be wrong. We can disagree with each other. Sometimes the minority report is right- especially on matters that effect minorities more than the majority. This is why generally people expect a political party to run on a set of principles, and implement policies that interpret those principles in a practical way. This way, we know in advance how the party will react, they don’t rely on polls and swings in public opinion for validation, and they can implement policy quickly and without consultation where necessary.

    Generally, people who behave the way you propose are called “populists”. It’s actually a frequent critique of Peter Dunne, for instance. The problem with populists is that while they may promise what you want, they can’t interpret it very well, and they often make mistakes doing so. It’s far better to vote for someone (or some Party) whose principles genuinely align with your own, who is likely to fully understand what you believe in and act from similar justifications and with similar results to you.

  10. Rex Widerstrom 10

    Ari: I didn’t want to thread-jack too much (and if you get me started on e-democracy you’ll end up in a coma 🙂 ) but when I was Director of the NZ Electronic Electoral Trial one of the major concerns we had was parity of access. All sorts of alternatives were explored.

    Provided each voter was prepared to have a unique identifier (and admittedly that in itself raises issues) to avoid multiple voting then the technical boffins told me that it could conceivably be done securely via telephone (“Press 1 to impeach Winston…” 😉 ) and even via bank ATMs! And that was back in the last century (1999 to be exact).

    So it wouldn’t be restricted to those with a dual core processor and an ADSL 2+ connection.

    But I agree there’s issues round the topic… issues I’d love to see debated at a national conference on NZ’s constitution and political system.

  11. randal 11

    what happened to reflection and sober and considered judgement..the last post seeemed to be all about rabble rousing and kneejerk reactions. if you want idealism get a plaster copy of the venus de milo and try and sculpt some new arms

  12. Pascal's bookie 12

    Rex, I’m sympathetic to the wisdom of crowds idea, but it always reminds me of the Charles Mackay quote that men go mad in herds but only come to their senses one by one.

    I think that direct democracy is a great idea for small things, and I can’t say where the line is, but for me it stops somewhere short of the nation state level. (I know I know, bloody elitist.)

    In short I think we elect people to exercise their judgement.

    In long, I think we elect them to be the top bureaucrats, not Leaders of The Nation. The government is not the Nation, it is just the thing the Nation uses to keep things chugging along. Representative democracy has proven itself to be a pretty damn good way of doing that.

    The thing about government is that it needs, ultimately, to hold a lot of power. What the government says, goes. This is ok as long as we have free regular elections. That way any particular govt has no power at all other than what the electorate, in it’s collective wisdom, gives them. I think that this almost paradoxical nature of the representative govt is superior to direct democracy in that it is the only way to safeguard against the frequent stupidity and bigotry of crowds.

    If we say that a properly run vox pop trumps the will of parliament, it’s all on. Especially I think today with highly sophisticated direct marketing techniques and ad campaigns designed by psychologists to hit you straight in the amygdala.

    Personally, if the vote was scheduled at the right time, I might have voted for those french terrorists to have their heads delivered to their governments embassy. I’m not sure that would have been wise, just, moral or in our best interest. But it sure would have felt good to vote for it in a secret ballot.

    This is getting too long, and I know you are not suggesting direct democracy replace parliament, but one more problem I would have with the idea is about accountability. In a binding referenda no one is accountable for what happens. ‘It was the people what done it.’

    None of which is to say that I think there is no place for many more referenda. Best way of finding out what the Nation is saying at any point in time. Which is a good thing to know.

    2c devils advocate etc.

  13. Rex Widerstrom 13

    Pascal’s bookie: Heh, that Mackay quote’s a keeper… hadn’t heard that one before. That’s two things I’ve picked up via The Standard today (the other was the excellent series a_y_b linked to – thanks for that a_y_b, I’m now watching the whole series via Google and seeing if I can get a DVD version).

    The problem with the “we can vote them out every three years” argument is that governments in NZ are so terribly conservative. To cite but one instance, I assumed – as I think did many other people – that one of the first actions of the incoming Labour government would reverse, or at least ameliorate the worst effects of, National’s benefit cuts. I honestly don’t know why it is that changing governments doesn’t effect more change – at least to the extent that one would expect to those things which incoming governments railed against (as opposed to pro-forma oppossing) when in Opposition. Perhaps we’re a timid lot.

    I think the question of our voting to execute the French spies is a bit of a red herring, since we’d have first have to have vote to restore capital punishment, surely? 😉

    Yes, these comments get so long no one can be bothered reading them, alas (to be fair I did give Ari warning of an impending coma) which is why I’d like to see a widespread debate on this and related topics at some sort of summit. Then we could bore people in person 😀

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  • Ministerial conflicts of interest
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    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • The 2024 Budget Forecasts Are Gloomy Prognosis About The Next Three Years.
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    PunditBy Brian Easton
    1 week ago
  • A government that can't see twenty feet ahead
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    More Than A FeildingBy David Slack
    1 week ago
  • A post I hope is incorrect
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    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Māori Cannot Re-Write New Zealand’s Constitution By Stealth.
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  • Gordon Campbell on cutting the sick leave of vulnerable workers
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    WerewolfBy lyndon
    1 week ago
  • Nobody Move: Ageing Boomers, Laurie & Les, Talk Politics.
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    1 week ago
  • In Search Of Unity.
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    1 week ago
  • Weekly Roundup 7-June-2024
    Welcome to another Friday roundup! Here are some recent links and stories that caught our eye, perfectly timed for your watercooler discussions and weekend reading. As always feel free to share more in the comments. Our header image this week is by Patrick Reynolds, and shows Te Komititanga from above. ...
    Greater AucklandBy Greater Auckland
    1 week ago
  • The Hoon around the week to June 7
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    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
    1 week ago
  • Did we boil the oceans by cutting pollution?
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    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
    1 week ago
  • Skeptical Science New Research for Week #23 2024
    Open access notables Abrupt reduction in shipping emission as an inadvertent geoengineering termination shock produces substantial radiative warming, Yuan et al., Communications Earth & Environment: Human activities affect the Earth’s climate through modifying the composition of the atmosphere, which then creates radiative forcing that drives climate change. The warming effect ...
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  • Fragments
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    More Than A FeildingBy David Slack
    1 week ago
  • March for Nature
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    Nick’s KōreroBy Nick Rockel
    1 week ago
  • Bernard’s Dawn Chorus and pick ‘n’ mix for Thursday, June 6
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    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
    1 week ago
  • A Better Broadway: Act 2
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    Greater AucklandBy Guest Post
    1 week ago
  • National breaks another health promise
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    PolitikBy Richard Harman
    1 week ago

  • High Court Judge appointed
    Attorney-General Judith Collins today announced the appointment of Auckland King’s Counsel Gregory Peter Blanchard as a High Court Judge. Justice Blanchard attended the University of Auckland from 1991 to 1995, graduating with an LLB (Honours) and Bachelor of Arts (English). He was a solicitor with the firm that is now Dentons ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Health workforce numbers rise
    Health Minister Dr Shane Reti says new data released today shows encouraging growth in the health workforce, with a continued increase in the numbers of doctors, nurses and midwives joining Health New Zealand. “Frontline healthcare workers are the beating heart of the healthcare system. Increasing and retaining our health workforce ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Government to overhaul firearms laws
    Associate Justice Minister Nicole McKee has today announced a comprehensive programme to reform New Zealand's outdated and complicated firearms laws. “The Arms Act has been in place for over 40 years. It has been amended several times – in a piecemeal, and sometimes rushed way. This has resulted in outdated ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Government delivers landmark specialist schools investment
    The coalition Government is delivering record levels of targeted investment in specialist schools so children with additional needs can thrive. As part of Budget 24, $89 million has been ringfenced to redevelop specialist facilities and increase satellite classrooms for students with high needs. This includes: $63 million in depreciation funding ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Major health and safety consultation begins
    A substantial consultation on work health and safety will begin today with a roadshow across the regions over the coming months, says Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Brooke van Velden.  This the first step to deliver on the commitment to reforming health and safety law and regulations, set out in ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Growing the potential of New Zealand’s forestry sector in partnership
    Forestry Minister Todd McClay, today announced the start of the Government’s plan to restore certainty and confidence in the forestry and wood processing sector. “This government will drive investment to unlock the industry’s economic potential for growth,” Mr McClay says. “Forestry’s success is critical to rebuilding New Zealand’s economy, boosting ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Government cancels forestry ETS annual service charges for 2023-24
    Annual service charges in the forestry Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will be cancelled for 2023/24, Forestry Minister Todd McClay says. “The sector has told me the costs imposed on forestry owners by the previous government were excessive and unreasonable and I agree,” Mr McClay says. “They have said that there ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Speech to the LGNZ Infrastructure Symposium
    Introduction Thank you for having me here today and welcome to Wellington, the home of the Hurricanes, the next Super Rugby champions. Infrastructure – the challenge This government has inherited a series of big challenges in infrastructure. I don’t need to tell an audience as smart as this one that ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Government boosts Agriculture and food trade with China
    Trade and Agriculture Minister Todd McClay and Food Safety Minister Andrew Hoggard welcomed outcomes to boost agricultural and food trade between New Zealand and China. A number of documents were signed today at Government House that will improve the business environment between New Zealand and China, and help reduce barriers, including on infant formula ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • NZ and China launch Services Trade Negotiations
    Trade Minister Todd McClay, and China’s Commerce Minister Wang Wentao, today announced the official launch of Negotiations on Services Trade between the two countries.  “The Government is focused on opening doors for services exporters to grow the New Zealand’s economy,” Mr McClay says.  As part of the 2022 New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement Upgrade ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Prime Minister Luxon meets with Premier Li
    Prime Minister Christopher Luxon met with Chinese Premier Li Qiang at Government House in Wellington today.  “I was pleased to welcome Premier Li to Wellington for his first official visit, which marks 10 years since New Zealand and China established a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership,” Mr Luxon says. “The Premier and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Government and business tackling gender pay gap
    The coalition Government is taking action to reduce the gender pay gap in New Zealand through the development of a voluntary calculation tool. “Gender pay gaps have impacted women for decades, which is why we need to continue to drive change in New Zealand,” Acting Minister for Women Louise Upston ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Funding Boost for Rural Support Trusts
    The coalition Government is boosting funding for Rural Support Trusts to provide more help to farmers and growers under pressure, Rural Communities Minister Mark Patterson announced today. “A strong and thriving agricultural sector is crucial to the New Zealand economy and one of the ways to support it is to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Latest data shows size of public service decreasing
    Spending on contractors and consultants continues to fall and the size of the Public Service workforce has started to decrease after years of growth, according to the latest data released today by the Public Service Commission. Workforce data for the quarter from 31 December 23 to 31 March 24 shows ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Speech to the Law Association
    Thank you to the Law Association for inviting me to speak this morning. As a former president under its previous name — the Auckland District Law Society — I take particular satisfaction in seeing this organisation, and its members, in such good heart. As Attorney-General, I am grateful for these ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • 25 years on, NZ reaffirms enduring friendship with Timor Leste
    New Zealand is committed to working closely with Timor-Leste to support its prosperity and resilience, Foreign Minister Winston Peters says.   “This year is the 25th anniversary of New Zealand sending peacekeepers to Timor-Leste, who contributed to the country’s stabilisation and ultimately its independence,” Mr Peters says.    “A quarter ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Inquiry requested into rural banking
    Promoting robust competition in the banking sector is vital to rebuilding the economy, Finance Minister Nicola Willis says.  “New Zealanders deserve a banking sector that is as competitive as possible. Banking services play an important role in our communities and in the economy. Kiwis rely on access to lending when ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Ministry for Regulation targets red tape to keep farmers and growers competitive
    Regulation Minister David Seymour, Environment Minister Penny Simmonds, and Food Safety Minister Andrew Hoggard have today announced a regulatory sector review on the approval process for new agricultural and horticultural products.    “Red tape stops farmers and growers from getting access to products that have been approved by other OECD countries. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Government to reverse blanket speed limit reductions
    The Coalition Government will reverse Labour’s blanket speed limit reductions by 1 July 2025 through a new Land Transport Rule released for public consultation today, Transport Minister Simeon Brown says.  The draft speed limit rule will deliver on the National-ACT coalition commitment to reverse the previous government’s blanket speed limit ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Chair appointments for NZSO, CNZ and NZ On Air
    Minister Paul Goldsmith is making major leadership changes within both his Arts and Media portfolios. “I am delighted to announce Carmel Walsh will be officially stepping into the role of Chair of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, having been acting Chair since April,” Arts Minister Paul Goldsmith says.  “Carmel is ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Government focus on long-term food, fibre growth
    Food and fibre export revenue is tipped to reach $54.6 billion this year and hit a record $66.6b in 2028 as the Government focuses on getting better access to markets and cutting red tape, Agriculture Minister Todd McClay and Oceans and Fisheries Minister Shane Jones say. “This achievement is testament ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Govt consulting on cutting red tape for exporters
    A new export exemption proposal for food businesses demonstrates the coalition Government’s commitment to reducing regulatory barriers for industry and increasing the value of New Zealand exports, which gets safe New Zealand food to more markets, says Food Safety Minister Andrew Hoggard.  “The coalition Government has listened to the concerns ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • New Zealand and Philippines elevating relationship
    New Zealand and Philippines are continuing to elevate our relationship, Foreign Minister Winston Peters says.   “The leaders of New Zealand and Philippines agreed in April 2024 to lift our relationship to a Comprehensive Partnership by 2026,” Mr Peters says. “Our visit to Manila this week has been an excellent ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Paid Parental Leave increase to help families
    Workplace Relations and Safety Minister, Brooke van Velden says paid parental leave increase from 1 July will put more money in the pockets of Kiwi parents and give them extra support as they take precious time off to bond with their newborns. The increase takes effect from 1 July 2024 ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Defence increases UN Command commitment
    The number of New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel deployed to the Republic of Korea is increasing, Defence Minister Judith Collins and Foreign Minister Winston Peters announced today.  NZDF will deploy up to 41 additional personnel to the Republic of Korea, increasing the size of its contribution to the United ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • New Zealand to attend 'Summit on Peace in Ukraine' in Switzerland
    New Zealand will be represented at the Summit on Peace in Ukraine by Minister Mark Mitchell in Switzerland later this week.    “New Zealand strongly supports Ukraine’s efforts to build a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace,” Foreign Minister Winston Peters says.   “Minister Mitchell is a senior Cabinet Minister and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Big step forward for M.bovis programme
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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Build To Rent opening welcomed by Housing Minister
    Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and Housing Minister Chris Bishop formally opened a new Build to Rent development in Mt Wellington this morning. “The Prime Minister and I were honoured to cut the ribbon of Resido, New Zealand’s largest Build to Rent development to date.  “Build to Rent housing, like the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Agriculture to come out of the ETS
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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Luxon Tokyo-bound for political and business visit
    Prime Minister Christopher Luxon will travel to Japan from 16-20 June, his first visit as Prime Minister.   “Japan is incredibly important to New Zealand's prosperity. It is the world’s fourth largest economy, and our fourth largest export destination.  “As you know, growing the economy is my number one priority. A strong economy means ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Bayly travels to Singapore for scam prevention meetings
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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • More help for homeowners impacted by severe weather
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    1 week ago
  • Government to reverse oil and gas exploration ban
    Removing the ban on petroleum exploration beyond onshore Taranaki is part of a suite of proposed amendments to the Crown Minerals Act to deal with the energy security challenges posed by rapidly declining natural gas reserves, Resources Minister Shane Jones says. “Natural gas is critical to keeping our lights on ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • New Zealand and Malaysia to intensify connections
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    1 week ago
  • Ending contracted emergency housing motels in Rotorua
    The end of Contracted Emergency Housing (CEH) motels in Rotorua is nearing another milestone as the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announces it will not renew consents for six of the original 13 motels, Associate Housing Minister Tama Potaka says. The government is committed to stop using CEH ...
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    1 week ago
  • First Home Grant closure exemptions
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    1 week ago
  • Faster consenting for flood protection projects in Hawke's Bay
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    1 week ago
  • Judge Craig Coxhead and Nathan Milner newest Māori Land Court appointments
    Tangata tū tangata ora, tangata noho tangata mate. Minister for Māori Development Tama Potaka today announced acting Deputy Chief Judge Craig Coxhead as the new Deputy Chief Judge, and Nathan Milner as Judge of the Māori Land Court. "I want to congratulate Judge Coxhead and Mr Milner on their appointments ...
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    1 week ago
  • Government signs Indo-Pacific Economic agreements to boost trade
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    1 week ago
  • Government signs Indo-Pacific Economic agreements to boost trade and cooperation
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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago

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