Foreign Minister Winston Peters has lauded the work of New Zealand’s diplomats and consular officials in helping New Zealand manage the global COVID-19 crisis.
“From the beginning of the outbreak, New Zealand has engaged in very active diplomacy,” Mr Peters said. “As Foreign Minister, calls have taken place with my counterparts from 23 countries around the globe to grapple with complex issues around border controls, repatriation and transits.”
“This active diplomacy has been premised on the idea that no single country has a monopoly on wisdom and we can make New Zealanders safer by learning from the experiences of others.”
Mr Peters thanked Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Chief Executive Chris Seed and his team for delivering the largest and most complex consular operation in its 77-year-history.
“Since this crisis hit, MFAT staff have been working 24/7 to ensure Kiwis stranded offshore get the support they need. In the last three months, MFAT has provided consular advice to 4,500 New Zealanders, compared 700 in the same period last year.”
“This has also been the most complex consular response a New Zealand Government has ever attempted – because rules around lockdowns, border crossings, transits and flight links are changing every minute of every day.”
Mr Peters noted that the Government had taken a measured and reciprocal approach to repatriations of New Zealanders stranded abroad and of foreign nationals stranded in New Zealand.
Citing international comparisons work compiled by MFAT, Mr Peters pushed back at criticism of the Government for doing too little too late to combat COVID-19.
“Globally speaking, we went hard and we went early. International comparisons reveal that New Zealand was extremely unusual in closing our borders to foreigners and in implementing a lockdown before we had lost a single person to COVID-19. Very few countries did this.”
Mr Peters signalled that Cabinet would consider, in coming weeks, its foreign and trade policy approach in the new COVID-19 world.
“We will be considering our foreign and trade policy priorities, in light of COVID-19, and especially how we can achieve a foreign and trade policy recovery. We need to be focused on how New Zealand positions itself in the new normal emerging following the arrival of COVID-19.”