29 Apr 2021

PM talks to media after discussing issues on NZ's relationship with the US

12:47 pm on 29 April 2021

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern met with the American Chamber of Commerce to discuss issues relating to New Zealand's relationship with the United States.

Watch the PM speaking here:

"For us Five Eyes will continue and will always be very very strategically important to New Zealand. But always going forward we will continue to make sure that we work with our partners around issues like human rights, democracy and as we have always done, we will make sure we raise those concerns in those arenas on an ongoing basis because that is keeping with New Zealand foreign policy," Ardern said.

Ardern said New Zealand has an independent foreign policy: "We have chosen partners par se, we have always chosen to stand on our values, which is strongly embedded in the importance of democracy and human rights."

She rejected the suggestion that there existed any diplomatic strain between the partners.

With regard to increasing tensions between China and the Five Eyes partners, she said New Zealand had never taken sides historically. "In having that independent foreign policy over decades, we have never been in the position of choosing sides. We have always been on the side of New Zealand's interests and New Zealand's values."

Silver Lake deal

Discussing the Silver Lake deal she said: "That will be a decision for New Zealand Rugby. The offer that has been made there with the negotiation that is underway, it is not something that directly involves the New Zealand government."

She said she had encouraged all interests, including those of provincial rugby, to be taken into account with any decision made.

On China and Act Party motion

On whether whether to declare a genocide in China against Uyghurs, Ardern said: "The act of declaring genocide is one that is really governed by a set of international criteria. New Zealand has only done that on three occasions, recognising that was also part of World War II, but also Rwanda and Cambodia. So because there is a process there, that is defined by international definition, the New Zealand government has not taken that step at this stage. What has been put before us as a Parliament however, in a different question. It's been moved by the Act Party. The Labour Party has yet to consider its position, but I expect we'll do that as part of our caucus meeting next time we meet."

Ardern said the foreign minister had sought advice on the matter.

Vaccine rollout

Regarding vaccine rollout, she said target figures were constantly being released and not only were those targets being met, they were also being exceeded.

But there existed problems specific to some regions, she said.

"What we're seeing are specific challenges within different district health boards and that is not surprising. Some district health boards are rural isolation issues to overcome as part their rollout. But there will always be that flexibility to take the steps they need to make sure they're trying to reach their goals and more importantly, reach their community."

Ardern said the government's approach, of steadily rolling out the vaccine and gradually ramping it up, had given the public time to consider the merits of getting vaccinated and become comfortable with the idea. "We've put it through all the independent processes we need, but that extra time is definitely starting to - and we're seeing this in some of our research - reduce down some of the hesitancy that may have existed."

Emergency accommodation

Regarding emergency accommodation, Ardern said dry, affordable housing for all was a priority and that the government had inherited a housing crisis where people had been sleeping in cars. Addressing that necessitated using temporary accommodation, she said.

"It is not fit-for-purpose for the long term. but is making sure we are keeping people in safe places, with shelter, and that they are warm and dry."

She said the current situation was not ideal, it was better than the situation that existed before.

"While I absolutely acknowledge that the use of motels, for example, is not a long-term solution, I definitely don't want a scenario in New Zealand where people are no in shelter at all. That would be absolutely wrong."

She said there was already "wrap around" services and social provisions for people who found themselves in temporary accommodation like motels.

"We've also established housing brokers through MSD to try to add extra support to families to find accommodation, which may be in some cases in the private sector."

She said there was an expectancy among some of large rent increases, in line with the huge increase in housing market prices, but this had so far not happened.

"What we've tended to see over a period of time is they've been more in the order of 3 percent. What's been key for us is keeping an eye on whether or not those rent increases are outstripping, for example, what we'd expect to see in people's wage increases."

Changes in tenancy laws, like only allowing one rent increase per year, were geared to protecting tenants from manageable increases, she said.