Britain's foreign secretary Boris Johnson meets with New Zealand's Foreign Minister Winston Peters in the Churchill Cabinet War Rooms on April 17, 2018 in London, England. (Hannah McKay - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

The Bulletin: PM Boris Johnson and the Britain-NZ relationship

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: What PM Boris Johnson could mean for NZ, Uyghur refugee in NZ fears long arm of Chinese law, and govt sets out on path towards RMA reform.

There was a huge amount of interest yesterday in Boris Johnson becoming PM of Britain, so today we’ll lead off with what it could mean for NZ. The first piece to share asks exactly that question, and as Stuff reports, Johnson has had plenty to say about the relationship between the Anglosphere countries of the Commonwealth. For example, he’s spoken about a “common travel area” between the UK, NZ, Australia and Canada, which would roughly in practice extend what currently exists between NZ and Australia to those other countries.

However, before any such grand plans take place, Brexit needs to be sorted out. The Guardian has a wrap of the four most likely options ahead of Johnson, and how they’ll be navigated through Britain’s political system. However from a New Zealand point of view the biggest question about what will happen is simply deal or no deal. A deal probably means a minimal amount of immediate pain for exporters continuing shipping goods into Britain and Europe. No deal probably means quite a lot of short term pain, but it would also immediately clear the way for a new free trade agreement to be negotiated.

On that point, foreign minister Winston Peters told Newstalk ZB he’d expect NZ to be among the first countries to get a deal with post-Brexit Britain. He says Johnson has always made the effort with New Zealand, and says this country needs to start preparing now for that to begin once Brexit is delivered. Peters is picking a no-deal hard Brexit to take place on October 31, and says if exporters have prepared for that eventuality they won’t suffer as much. We’re also in the midst of negotiating a free trade agreement with Europe, which could be a complicating factor. Other countries will also be looking for a post-Brexit deal, and as many will be larger economies they may be considered higher priorities.

Others among New Zealand’s political leaders have offered their congratulations to Boris Johnson on winning Britain’s top job. PM Jacinda Ardern offered hers, in what she described as a “positive text exchange”, reports One News. Meanwhile Newshub reports National leader Simon Bridges congratulated him, and suggested he had a “buffoon-like quality.” I know I was told off yesterday for rudeness, but Bridges isn’t exactly wrong here. Though as Claire Trevett suggested in the NZ Herald, it perhaps takes one to know one.

Incidentally over in Britain, PM Boris Johnson’s reign has been marked so far by turmoil. Huge swathes of the cabinet have either resigned or been sacked, reports Bloomberg, including some of Johnson’s major rivals for the top job. Europe’s leadership have told Johnson bluntly that they want to see the actual detail of his Brexit plan, and fear the chances of a “disorderly” Brexit have risen, reports the Guardian. They’ve also made it pretty clear the deal that was offered to Theresa May is substantively the only deal on the table, unless Britain makes concessions that will be politically unsellable at home.

Finally, for more on the new political situation in Britain, there’ll be plenty of coverage in the Bulletin World Weekly on Friday. That covers off the big stories happening around the world, and a few you might have missed as well, and gets sent straight to you if you sign up for membership.


An Uyghur refugee living in New Zealand has spoken out about his fear that the government won’t be able to protect him, reports AFP. Shawudun Abdughupur fled from China in 2009, after ethnic riots, and has watched the persecution of people in Xinjiang province with growing alarm. He believes his mother is currently one of the million or so Uyghurs in re-education concentration camps. He says after he received a chilling anonymous message saying “we can find you,” he raised concerns with police, but was told to take it up with Netsafe instead.


The government has announced they will be embarking on RMA reform. Here’s a cheat sheet on what that means to start with. Diving into the detail, environment minister David Parker will have to find a way between Labour’s Māori caucus and NZ First, reports Politik, because while the groups have competing preferences and interests, the votes of both will be needed to make progress.


The Climate Leaders Coalition have admitted their businesses are probably creating more emissions than they were a year ago, reports Stuff. Z Energy’s Mike Bennetts said progress is being made in measuring emissions, and some organisations are doing better, but that has been offset by others creating more. The Sky Tower was lit up green to celebrate.


More logs are being exported this year compared to the last, despite plummeting commodity wood prices, reports Angie Skerrett for Newshub. The value of untreated log exports are up the by 20% year on year, however that was set against a 26% rise in quantity. That category led the overall rise in log and timber value, which is the third biggest export sector behind dairy and meat.


Auckland mayoral candidate John Tamihere continues to insist ACC is interested in buying half of Watercare, ACC strongly disagrees. Stuff reports Tamihere is also at odds with his running mate Christine Fletcher, because she opposes the part-privatisation. But it’s all a moot point, as ACC are completely flat in their denial, as is the relevant minister Iain Lees-Galloway. Mayor Phil Goff has said he’s totally against it.


A visiting British expert is in New Zealand to advise doctors on how and when to prescribe medicinal cannabis. Speaking to Breakfast, Professor Mike Barnes dispelled the idea that the herb is some sort of magical cure-all, as you might have once heard at 2am in a student flat. However, he says it’s potentially very useful for some conditions, like chronic pain.


Flowers are bursting into bloom a month early because of warm weather in Dunedin, reports the ODT. It follows a sustained dry period which also sped up the flowering process. There’s still quite a strong risk of winter frosts happening this year, which would harm budding plants. If anyone’s wondering by the way, it’s not a good sign that climate change is confusing plants like this.


One for the major media nerds: The Spinoff’s managing editor Duncan Greive has gone toe-to-toe with broadcasting minister and former journalist Kris Faafoi, about the government’s plans for the sector. Or rather, whether the government has any plans that reflect the extreme scale of challenge facing the sector. As well as that, minister Faafoi reveals disturbingly well-informed opinions on Married at First Sight Australia.


The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed, free daily curated digest of all the most important stories from around New Zealand delivered directly to your inbox each morning.

Sign up now


Image: Tina Tiller

Right now on The Spinoff: Surgeon Richard Babor explains what’s he learned about cancer prevention during the making of his TV show How Not to Get Cancer. Alice Webb-Liddall finds out more about investment in people, amid tech taking over in retail. Samuel Flynn Scott goes on a dry-July bender featuring beverages like Kombucha and kava. Alex Casey and Tara Ward discuss significant developments and updates on Love Island.

And I’ve been keeping an eye on the progress of the New Conservative party over the year, and finally filed a piece about it, after going to a pair of party meetings in the Bay of Plenty. They’re increasingly confident and organised, and a year out from the election have the potential to become a real force among the minor parties.


The conflict at Ihumātao has been going on for years, and in some very real ways for more than a century. While much has happened since, and it is heavily disputed who holds mana whenua rights now, the roots of it are brilliantly explained by Leonie Hayden in this piece for NZ Geographic, published in 2017. Here’s an excerpt that looks back to the connection with the invasion of the Waikato.

In July 1863, Māori living in Manukau and on the Waikato border north of the Mangatāwhiri Stream were visited by a Crown official and asked to take an oath of allegiance to Queen Victoria and give up arms, or else be banished into the Waikato. Nearly everyone in Ihumātao had family ties to Waikato and supported Tāwhiao, the Māori King.

“There was an accusation that was levelled against Waikato that there was an imminent plot to attack the settlers of Auckland. It was a fabrication, part of Grey’s dodgy dossier,” says O’Malley. “The accusation was window-dressing for the British Colonial Office, to give the appearance that Grey had no choice but to take troops into the Waikato.”

More than 400 hectares of land at Ihumātao was confiscated by the Crown, as punishment for the community’s allegiance to the King movement, and given to a handful of settler families.

Join us and help us hire new
political & climate reporters
Find Out More

One of the most interesting long-term stories in sports is about the effects of increasing professionalisation. This piece from GQ focuses in on an area where that hasn’t traditionally been noticed so much – the head office. It tells the story through the context of NBA General Managers, who are increasingly building up profiles of their own among fans. But it also looks at who those GMs are, and the culture they bring, which is much more reflective of white collar corporate culture than anything from the sporting world. It’s a long read, so set aside some time if you’re interested.


From our partners: A two-tier system of energy use is developing, with those on high incomes much more able to reduce their bills than households on lower incomes. Vector’s Chief Risk and Sustainability Officer Kate Beddoe outlines what the company plans to do about that.


That’s it for The Bulletin. If you liked what you read, and know other people who would find it useful, pass on this signup form to them.


This content is brought to you by Vector. If you live in Auckland, they also delivered the power you’re using to read it. And they’re creating a new energy future for all of us, as showcased by the incredible Vector Lights in partnership with Auckland Council.



The Spinoff is made possible by the generous support of the following organisations.
Please help us by supporting them.