16 Apr 2024

Mata Season 2 | Episode 6: Nanaia Mahuta on the war in Gaza, Māori wards, and the scrapping of Three Waters

From Mata with Mihingarangi Forbes , 5:00 pm on 16 April 2024

Former MFAT Minister Nanaia Mahuta shares her views on the government’s position on the war in Gaza, mandatory referendums for Māori wards, and the scrapping of Three Waters, and panelists Lara Grieve and Jack Tautokai McDonald discuss the latest in politics.

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Nanaia Mahuta said there was a high potential for the situation between Israel and Iran to escalate but also to cause "a regional spillover."

Iran has launched missile and drone attacks on Israel over the weekend, and New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has joined allies in urging Israel not to escalate tensions with Iran.

Mahuta said Arab nations in particular will be trying to calculate what Israel's next steps would be, and there would be pleas from numerous nations to de-escalate the situation.

What is happening in relation to Iran must be viewed in relation to what is happening in Gaza and the loss of around 34,000 Palestinian lives, she said.

"I think there's a lot of tense and tender observations from the international community to try and have a remedy to the situation in Gaza, which is a two-state solution, and accelerate talks there."

The United States' financial support for Israel's military action was also causing widespread concern across the international community, she said.

The weekend's strikes on Israel came following an Israeli airstrike on an Iranian diplomatic compound in Syria, which killed several high-ranking officers.

"Iran will be saying that it acted in a proportionate way to the actions of Israel. But if you get beyond words, no one can afford a regional spillover and further war escalating in that kind of way," Mahuta said.

Mahuta said she was observing what the Arab nations were doing to try to play an influencing role to ensure there was no retaliation.

Mahuta believed the New Zealand government was not doing enough to hold Israel to account for the situation in Gaza.

"I think there is more we can do to use our voice to continue to hold Israel to account for the loss of innocent lives that have taken place so far in Gaza – the loss of humanitarian aid workers, the inability to get humanitarian aid into Gaza, and the disproportionate actions that it is currently exacting on the Israeli people."

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has confirmed that New Zealand was considering joining the technology- and communications-focused Pillar 2 of the AUKUS defence agreement.

But Mahuta said she did not believe it was necessary for New Zealand to join Pillar 2 of AUKUS.

"We can join small- and medium-sized nations to explore the potential of quantum technology, of AI, of tech-enhanced equipment for security purposes."

Mahuta said the last government signalled it would explore the potential of Pillar 2, but no conclusive decision to join was made.

"We need to explore our regional interests in Southeast Asia and recognise that there is a significant shift of global south states to align themselves in other areas other than security and defence, and we need to understand that landscape because it will have a consequent influence on what happens within our part of the world."

Local Government Minister Simeon Brown has said councils will need to hold referendums if they want to keep their Māori wards.

Mahuta said Māori ward councillors' contribution to local government decision-making had made a critical difference.

"I know that for my own council, it's made a difference in the areas of conversations like civil defence and response."

For example, Māori ward councillors advocating for marae which are public facilities to be included in civil defence plans, she said.