Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for New Zealand

Newsline: US Ambassador to New Zealand qualifies for world triathlon championship for his age bracket

United States Ambassador Scott Brown, long known as a rock ’n’ roll and fitness buff, could be headed to Switzerland next summer to test his chops as a triathlete on the world stage. Brown, 59, a former Republican senator from Massachusetts, shared the news in a weekend Twitter post from New Zealand. “In #Tauranga for the Olympic Distance Triathlon National Championships,” Brown tweeted. “Crazy weather, tons of bike issues, but finished 2nd. Yippee. Qualified for worlds in Switzerland.”



Newsline: Brexit vote prompts New Zealand to open embassy in Ireland

New Zealand opened its first ever embassy in Ireland with a traditional Maori blessing and a visit by the country’s deputy prime minister. The embassy, on Merrion Row in Dublin city centre, will help cement existing ties with the Pacific and benefit future trade relationships between Ireland and New Zealand, officials said. The new ambassador, Brad Burgess, was joined by government officials and deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs Winston Peters for the ceremony. Mr Peters said the opening of the embassy was triggered by Britain’s vote to leave the European Union two years ago. “The moment the Brexit decision happened on the 23rd of June 2016, it became very clear that we would have to, with respect to Ireland, set up an embassy here.” It was “one of the first decisions we made that we could no longer think of servicing out of London, which was what had been going on in the past. That’s why we made the decision”, Mr Peters said. Mr Peters said New Zealand needed a close relationship with Ireland “and vice versa”.


Newsline: Debt-dodging diplomat’s time in New Zealand is up, but money might yet be paid

The diplomat at the centre of a row over unpaid rent for a flash seaside house in Wellington is leaving the country, but her landlord still hopes he will be paid the money he is owed. Eva Tvarozkova, deputy chief of mission for the European Union Delegation to New Zealand, has finished her term and is on the eve of departing New Zealand. Her departure was unconnected to the Tenancy Tribunal case over unpaid rent, the delegation’s political adviser, Lucy Ross said. Her lease of a $1500 a week home in Karaka Bay was supposed to be a three-year tenancy but was abandoned after about six months. Landlords Matthew Ryan and Rebecca Van Den Bos obtained a Tenancy Tribunal order on March 22 awarding them $14,314.27. They should also have got the $6000 bond the tenant paid. But the order was overturned when diplomatic immunity was used to avoid paying the bill. However, Ryan hopes the delegation will make good on an offer to resolve the matter. The European Union and European External Action Service, which oversees EU diplomats, has cleared Tvarozkova. They reviewed the documents and said she complied with her obligations under the lease, according to a statement they issued. In pointing out the immunity to the Tenancy Tribunal they took the necessary legal steps to oppose the landlord’s claims and to protect a staff member from an action it considered unfounded in fact and in law, they said.


Newsline: EU diplomat uses immunity to avoid rent in New Zealand

A European Union staffer has dodged a bill worth thousands of dollars to a landlord by invoking diplomatic immunity in New Zealand. A tribunal in March ordered the EU Delegation’s deputy head of mission in New Zealand, Eva Tvarozkova, to pay $NZ20,000 ($A18,326) to her landlord for unpaid rent and property damage at a Wellington house. Although she didn’t contest the original hearing, Ms Tvarozkova’s lawyers later returned to the tenancy body and argued, as a diplomat, she didn’t have to foot the bill. While New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs lobbied the European delegation to consider waiving immunity, it had no luck, and the tribunal has now overturned its decision, saying Ms Tvarozkova was indeed protected.


Newsline: New Zealand’s former military attache to US fights embassy toilet camera charge

New Zealand’s former top military attache to the United States, accused of planting a hidden camera inside the toilets of the New Zealand embassy in Washington DC, is strongly denying the allegations against him. Commodore Alfred (Fred) Keating was one of the Royal New Zealand Navy’s highest-ranking officers and in July last year was serving as the country’s senior defence attache in Washington. The New Zealand Herald first reported the allegations in March. On July 27 last year, a hidden camera was found in a unisex bathroom on level three of the embassy, where Keating was stationed. It is alleged Keating planted the small covert camera. The former commanding officer of the Devonport Naval Base denies the allegations and appeared again today before Judge Russell Collins in the Auckland District Court. The Crown told the court today a potential trial would hear computer-based evidence. A reserved date for trial was set for 10 days next April, while Keating was remanded on bail. Afterwards, Keating, who has a new legal team led by top lawyer Ron Mansfield, provided a statement to the Herald. “I am very disappointed to find myself caught up in this incident at the embassy,” it read. “Sadly, the allegation I now face has already tarnished my personal and professional reputation before I have even had an opportunity to understand or challenge the case brought against me.” Keating trusted that the presumption of innocence was respected and that he would have an opportunity to review the Crown’s evidence against him. “I look forward to the opportunity to answer the allegation in court. “I certainly intend to clear my name and expect this will be achieved in time.”


Newsline: New Zealand boosts Pacific aid by $700m, hints Australia will follow suit

New Zealand’s foreign minister has unveiled an extra $NZ700 million ($AUS654 million) in foreign aid over the next four years – largely for Pacific nations – and hinted Australia will be boosting its own spending. In a speech ahead of next week’s government budget, Foreign Minister Winston Peters announced a $NZ714m ($AUS667m) increase in foreign aid spending over four years, along with about $NZ190m ($AUS177m) more for New Zealand’s diplomatic services. In a talk to a Sydney audience earlier this year, he signalled New Zealand would be “resetting” its strategy towards the Pacific by lifting spending and moving from donor-recipient relationships to partnerships.


Newsline: Defense attache allegedly hid camera at New Zealand Embassy in US

A high-ranking New Zealand military officer has been accused of hiding a camera in a bathroom at the nation’s embassy in Washington in a case that has raised unusual jurisdictional questions. Alfred Keating was a navy commodore and the embassy’s senior defense attache at the time of the incident last July. He would have been eligible to claim diplomatic immunity from being prosecuted by U.S. authorities. But the case was handled by New Zealand police, who traveled to Washington to investigate. A New Zealand judge on Friday dismissed an appeal by Keating to have his name and other personal details suppressed. Keating, who has returned to New Zealand, has been charged with attempting to make an intimate visual recording. If convicted, he faces a maximum 18 months in prison. Court documents say a camera was found in a unisex bathroom that was available for use by the 60 or so people who worked at the embassy. “It had been purposely mounted inside a heating duct unit in the bathroom, at a height and direction that captured recordings from people who arrived and used the toilet,” the documents say. The camera was discovered after it fell on the floor. It had likely been in place for many months, according to the documents. It had been activated the morning it was found and had 19 images of people from that day, the documents say. Prosecutors say they didn’t find any indecent images when they searched Keating’s computer but they did find that he had installed the driver software for the camera. A pre-trial hearing has been scheduled for July.