Kiwi diplomacy as clear as mud

Dr Oliver Hartwich
Insights Newsletter
2 June, 2023

If there is one constant in New Zealand’s foreign policy, it is its unpredictability. But last week, Defence Minister Andrew Little asserted that New Zealand “knows which side we’re on.”  

Which was news to us. Well, it was good news, somehow. Now, if only Little would be so kind as to explain which side that was. 

One might liken New Zealand’s international policy stance to a prolonged game of hide and seek. While we Kiwis are still diligently counting, the other nations have moved on. They’ve enjoyed a leisurely cup of tea, completed a second round and are now perusing the rule book for the next game.  

And us? Well, we are still counting. 

Yet, there’s no cause for alarm, because Little just assured us we have selected our side. Our allegiance, we’re told, is with “international law,” “principles,” and “values.” Hear, hear. 

But does this clear things up? Because there is no country on earth saying it does not care for international law, principles and values. Unfortunately, those foreign values and principles might not be ours. 

Little’s statement is about as helpful as saying we’ve decided to support whichever team kicks the most goals in a football match. We will know once the final whistle blows. 

So let’s engage in a thought experiment, shall we? Australia and, just for the sake of the argument, Denmark enter a heated dispute over sustainable farming practices.  

Where do our allegiances lie here: with our trans-Tasman frenemies or the environmentally diligent Danes? Evidently, we shall remain unwavering to our principles and values. Whatever they might be in this scenario. 

Truth be told, deciphering New Zealand’s foreign policy is like attempting to map the Bermuda Triangle on a foggy morning in Invercargill. Yes, it’s somewhere in there, but you’d need a state-of-the-art GPS, a military-grade compass, and an expert team of cartographers to make headway. 

But worry not, for according to Little, we’ve picked a side, and we’re sticking to it. Because that is what our decisive, independent foreign policy is all about. 

So, let us relax, dear Kiwis and international observers. Solemnly New Zealand has taken a stance, for once. 

Never mind it is as clear as a muddy puddle, subject to the whim of the tides, atmospheric pressure, and the latest All Blacks score.  

But rest assured, it’s there. A resolute, unwavering and utterly cryptic side. The right side. For New Zealand. 

And honestly, that’s just the Kiwi way, isn’t it?  

Stay in the loop: Subscribe to updates