Spying for torturers

Written By: - Date published: 10:27 am, April 17th, 2015 - 19 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, International, Spying - Tags: , , , ,

Yesterday the latest in the ongoing series of GCSB spying leaks emerged:

Secret documents shine light on GCSB spying in Bangladesh

Secret files reveal the GCSB spies both on and for the South-East Asian nation.

Secret documents reveal New Zealand has shared intelligence collected through covert surveillance with Bangladesh despite that country’s security forces being implicated in extrajudicial killings, torture and other human rights abuses.

The intelligence gathered by the GCSB staff was also being forwarded to foreign intelligence agencies, including Bangladesh’s state intelligence agency. In recent years, human rights groups have issued several reports documenting Bangladeshi intelligence and security agencies’ disregard for international prohibitions on torture and alleged involvement in politically motivated killings. In 2014, a case was filed in the International Criminal Court accusing the Bangladesh Government of committing crimes against humanity.

As usual there are (redacted) original documents in The Herald piece, and as usual there was a matching piece on The Intercept (Gallagher and Hager):

NEW ZEALAND SPY DATA SHARED WITH BANGLADESHI HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSERS

An NSA document that outlines the agency’s relationship with New Zealand, dated from April 2013, noted that “the GCSB has been the lead for the intelligence community on the Bangladesh CT [counter-terrorism] target since 2004.” The document added that the New Zealand agency had “provided unique intelligence leads that have enabled successful CT operations by Bangladesh State Intelligence Service, CIA and India over the past year.”

In 2008, for instance, Human Rights Watch alleged that the Special Branch headquarters in Dhaka’s Maghbazar neighborhood was used to torture detainees. In 2009, the rights group accused the Rapid Action Battalion of extrajudicially executing hundreds of people and said acts of torture were routinely perpetrated by officials from the intelligence directorate.

It is unclear from any of the NSA documents whether New Zealand sought or received any assurances from Bangladesh over how intelligence it shared could be used for detentions and interrogations, or whether there was any effective oversight of how the country’s agencies ultimately used the information. …

I/S at No Right Turn comments:

Unlawful and possibly criminal

As with other GCSB spying, this raises the usual questions: how does this contribute to New Zealand’s international relations and national security? And it has the usual answer: it doesn’t. The GCSB isn’t spying on Bangladesh because it poses some threat to New Zealand, but because the NSA has told them to and they want information to trade to their American masters. Whether that is in New Zealand’s interests is left as an exercise for the reader.

But it also raises serious questions about what is done with the information the GCSB collects. Bangladesh’s spy agencies are deeply unsavoury people who engage in torture, disappearance, and extrajudicial killings. There’s an obvious political question here about whether we want our spies passing information to an agency which goes around kidnapping, torturing and murdering people. But beyond that, there are serious legal questions as well. Its hard to see how the GCSB’s sharing of information with an agency known to torture and murder is consistent with the agency’s obligations under sections 8 and 9 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, which affirm the right to life and the right not to be tortured, which apply to any actions of the government, anywhere in the world, and for which there can be no “justified limitation”

But in addition to probably being unlawful, sharing information with known torturers and murderers is probably criminal as well. TheCrimes of Torture Act 1989 imposes a penalty of 14 years imprisonment on anyone who

(a) commits an act of torture; or
(b) does or omits an act for the purpose of aiding any person to commit an act of torture; or
(c) abets any person in the commission of an act of torture; or
(d) incites, counsels, or procures any person to commit an act of torture.

There’s no suggestion that the GCSB is itself torturing people, or that they’re deliberately procuring it (unlike the CIA and MI6, who seem to do that all the time). But passing information to known torturers seems to fall squarely within clauses 3(1)(b) and 3(1)(c). And that means that the GCSB staff who do it are potentially on the hook for a very long jail spell. If you work for the GCSB on the Bangladesh desk, you should really be talking to your lawyer about now.  …

As usual

PM refuses to discuss GCSB allegations

Prime Minister John Key is refusing to discuss new allegations New Zealand spies have been assisting Bangladesh’s draconian security agencies.

Journalist Nicky Hager said it was almost certain the the Government Communications and Security Bureau had helped security forces in Bangladesh torture people. … “There is almost no doubt that the information we have been giving them for almost 12 years now will have been used for torture possibly for extra judicial killings and general terrorising of Bangladesh people.”

But as with the previous allegations against the Government’s foreign spy agency the Prime Minister would not discuss them.

“We don’t comment on the activities of GCSB, the only thing I can say is that I am comfortable on all the advice I’ve been given on GCSB that they act lawfully.

“They’re a foreign intelligence agency, they gather information for reasons of national interest to New Zealand and that’s about all I’m prepared to say.”

If ever there was a case for dropping the “no comment” defence, this is surely it.

19 comments on “Spying for torturers ”

  1. Bill 1

    Scratching my head at the tone of some of the reporting here that seems to suggest that Bangladesh is a ‘bad apple’…some kind of special case.

    For example, NRT writes –

    There’s an obvious political question here about whether we want our spies passing information to an agency which goes around kidnapping, torturing and murdering people. But beyond that…

    That overlooks the fact that US agencies the GCSB passes info to are complicit in kidnapping (rendition), torture (world-wide network with facilities in numerous countries) and murder (extra judicial assassinations of US citizens by targeted drone strike)

    I’d hate to think outrage was heightened because on some visceral level Bangladesh is seen as ‘not one of us’. Know what I mean?

    • McFlock 1.1

      Maybe a little bit of the “know what I mean”.

      But also I think it’s more that media-wise we’re conditioned to conflate US interests with our own (more than say German or French interests), and we’re also constantly told that the rendition etc is focused on stopping terrorists.

      With internal Bangladeshi politics, NZers have a clean slate as to who’re bad guys, who’re good guys, and just how many shades of grey cover all involved. So there’s not the immediate and instinctive defense of “yeah, but the people they’re doing it to are bad“.

    • RJL 1.2

      @Bill “I’d hate to think outrage was heightened because on some visceral level Bangladesh is seen as ‘not one of us’.”

      Nice try at distraction.

      Yes, we all know that the US is also complicit in all sorts of Global Wrongness; that’s partly why being in Five Eyes is a problem.

      However, the Bangladesh Intelligence Services are some of the (many) groups that our own governments (NZ and US) say are problematic; because of torture, assassination, etc. And yet here we are apparently providing intelligence support to them.

      • Colonial Rawshark 1.2.1

        However, the Bangladesh Intelligence Services are some of the (many) groups that our own governments (NZ and US) say are problematic; because of torture, assassination, etc. And yet here we are apparently providing intelligence support to them.

        Let’s be clear about this so that we can get past this cognitive dissonance once and for all.

        If a country is an obedient vassal state of the American empire (to use Putin’s terminology) that country might be gently chastised but it will always be materially forgiven all kinds of human rights abuses and civil liberties abrogations.

        Saddam Hussein using chemical weapons on Iranians? No problem. Because Saddam is our kind of bastard. Pinochet making thousands of left wingers and unionists disappear? No problem. Because Pinochet is our kind of bastard. Netanyahu kills hundreds of Palestinian children in a month and still be invited to speak to Congress. No problem. Because Netanyahu is our kind of bastard. Saudi Arabia can launch an illegal war against Yemen and receive new supplies of US munitions, Egypt can execute dozens of opposition political activists and receive half a billion dollars in new military aid, Kiev armed forces can shell towns, settlements and apartment blocks in the east of Ukraine and receive US military training and IMF money.

        Yes they may all be bastards but again, they’re all our kind of bastards.

        Our involvement in supporting human rights abusers in Bangladesh isn’t an exception for the deep state. It’s the norm.

      • Bill 1.2.2

        It wasn’t an attempt to distract so much as an attempt, for one thing, to shed a little light on what is surely some glaring hypocrisy. If I can take what you’ve wrote and maybe tweak it?

        – “the Bangladesh Intelligence Services are some of the (many) groups that our own governments that themselves indulge in torture and assassination, etc (…) say are problematic; because of torture, assassination, etc.”

        • RJL 1.2.2.1

          @Bill

          Thanks for your concern trolling. Everyone is well aware that our intelligence agencies are hypocrites. That is indeed another criticism of the GCSB and friends.

          However, everyone complaining about our intelligence agencies supporting the torturers and murderers in Bangladesh Intelligence are also complaining about our intelligence agencies supporting torture or murder in other contexts.

          [Accusing a contributor of trolling their own site is….stupid. You could have retracted, but chose not to. I’m also of the opinion that you accusation of trolling is itself… trolling. So I’ll let your comments back through sometime next Tuesday. Bye.] – Bill

          • Bill 1.2.2.1.1

            G’day RJL.
            Here’s how this one goes.
            I’m off to grab me some bread from the local dairy. When I get back, one of two things are going to happen.

            Either – a. You have submitted an apology for accusing me of concern trolling and we move on.

            or – b. I’m going to sign in, moderate, and ban you from commenting for some as yet to be decided span of time.

            Your choice.

            • Murray Rawshark 1.2.2.1.1.1

              I would respectively raise the question of the desirability of moderating replies to your own comments. It seems to me that RJL may have difficulties with comprehension and that it may be better to deal with this in a different manner.

              On the other hand, what the hell would I know anyway? I’m from the anti-democratic hard left which you have often denounced as authoritarian and unrepresentative.

              • Bill

                I wasn’t moderating the reply.

                He was free to argue whatever line he wanted. Throwing in accusations of trolling, or as a previous person found out of being a natbot, will attract bans from me.

                That’s just the way it is.

                edit – P.S. I’ve noted your comment and this is the sole response I’m giving on the matter.

                I won’t be allowing this thread to degenerate into a to-ing and fro-ing about the why’s and wherefore’s of bans. Any attempt by anyone to generate such a debate will be running the risk of a ban themselves.

    • emergency mike 2.1

      Yeah that’s a shocker. So that’s what shrugging your shoulders in the face of dead civilians looks like.

      “”For the most part drone strikes have been an effective way of prosecuting people that are legitimate targets,” he said this morning.”

      ‘Prosecuting’? ‘For the friggin most part‘?

      “He shrugged off responsibility for New Zealand’s role in the programme.

      “That is a matter for others because we are not the individuals that are conducting those drone strikes … maybe, in the odd instance we might be [supplying intelligence] or we might not be, it depends on the circumstance.””

      Yep drone strikes are nothing to do with us. Except sometimes they are. So… al jabiri… or something… are we changing the flag or what?

  2. MrSmith 3

    “If ever there was a case for dropping the “no comment” defence, this is surely it.”

    And the current lot are proposing to take away our right to silence again, hypocrites!

    The labour party though seem to be taking the right to silence to extremes on the Spying issues.

  3. fisiani 4

    Our GCSB does not torture or assist in torturing anyone.

    • Phew, glad that’s sorted now. I was worried for a moment or two, but you’ve totally convinced me. Thanks, fisi.

    • “Secret documents reveal New Zealand has shared intelligence collected through covert surveillance with Bangladesh despite that country’s security forces being implicated in extrajudicial killings, torture and other human rights abuses.”

      hmm who should I believe a keylovepuppet or these respected investigative journalists…

      ‘Nicky Hager is a New Zealand-based investigative journalist and an internationally recognised expert on surveillance since the publication of his ground-breaking book Secret Power in 1996.

      and Ryan Gallagher is an award-winning Scottish journalist whose work at United States news organisation The Intercept is focused on government surveillance, technology and civil liberties.’

    • peterh 4.3

      How do you know. The slimyone wont tell anyone, what they do ,have you got your own looking glass

  4. Murray Rawshark 5

    This sort of thing is absolutely nothing new. During the Vietnam police action we militarily supported both a regime that routinely used torture and an invading power that slaughtered whole villages of women and children, while doing their utmost to wreck the infrastructure of a third world country. It was slightly embarrassing when Marshall Ky announced his hero as Adolf from Bavaria, but nothing our Tories weren’t relaxed over.

    So yeah, aiding the scumbag torturers of Sri Lanka stinks, but it’s nothing new. I’d be surprised if FJK weren’t helping them, and I’d be pleasantly surprised if Labour in power could put a stop to it. Will this even come up at the squirrel oversight committee, now that they got rid of the troublesome Green tinge?

  5. Sable 6

    No real surprise. Just business as usual for our dirty government and I don’t just mean the current one either.

  6. SMILIN 7

    I suppose 9 years of a NACT govt could be considered a long enough sentence for the voters under the Crimes of torture act then we get our democracy back lets hope

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    1 week ago
  • 20,000+ on Queen St.
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    1 week ago
  • Josh Drummond's Columns
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    1 week ago
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    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
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  • The no-vision thing
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    David FarrierBy David Farrier
    1 week ago
  • Me, elsewhere: Just say you’ll do the thing
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    Boots TheoryBy Stephanie Rodgers
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  • A Voyage Among the Vandals: Accepted
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    1 week ago
  • 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
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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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    1 week ago
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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
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    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 ...
    1 week ago
  • Fragments
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    More Than A FeildingBy David Slack
    1 week ago
  • March for Nature
    Do do do do do do do doDo do do do do doDi di di di di di di di di di diNature enter me…In 2018 the Labour lead government banned new oil and gas exploration in Aotearoa. A change welcomed by those who care deeply for our environment and ...
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    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
    National has broken another manifesto health promise, apparently to save only $550,000. It will now train an additional 25 med students next year rather than the 50 it promised. This comes on top of the delays caused by National’s coalition partners in pushing ahead with the Waikato Medical School and ...
    PolitikBy Richard Harman
    1 week ago
  • Climate Adam: Coping as the world’s best known climate scientist
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    2 weeks 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
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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Government to overhaul firearms laws
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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Government delivers landmark specialist schools investment
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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Major health and safety consultation begins
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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Growing the potential of New Zealand’s forestry sector in partnership
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    2 days ago
  • Government cancels forestry ETS annual service charges for 2023-24
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    2 days ago
  • Speech to the LGNZ Infrastructure Symposium
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    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 ...
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    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 ...
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    3 days ago
  • Government and business tackling gender pay gap
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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Funding Boost for Rural Support Trusts
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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
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  • Latest data shows size of public service decreasing
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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Speech to the Law Association
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    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
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    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
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    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 ...
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    3 days ago
  • Government focus on long-term food, fibre growth
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    3 days ago
  • Govt consulting on cutting red tape for exporters
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    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 ...
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    5 days ago
  • Paid Parental Leave increase to help families
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    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 ...
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    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 ...
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    6 days ago
  • Bayly travels to Singapore for scam prevention meetings
    Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Andrew Bayly, travels to Singapore today to attend scam and fraud prevention meetings. “Scams are a growing international problem, and we are not immune in New Zealand. Organised criminal networks operate across borders, and we need to work with our Asia-Pacific partners to tackle ...
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    6 days ago
  • More help for homeowners impacted by severe weather
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    7 days 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 ...
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    7 days ago
  • New Zealand and Malaysia to intensify connections
    New Zealand and Malaysia intend to intensify their long-standing, deep connections, Foreign Minister Winston Peters says.    “Malaysia is one of New Zealand’s oldest friends in South-East Asia – and both countries intend to get more out of the relationship," Mr Peters says.   "Our connections already run deep and ...
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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
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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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    1 week ago

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