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Revealing 'Newsroom' Story Features Steve Ruru

Southland District Council Chief Executive, and ex TCDC  CEO- Steve Ruru features in a David Williams Newsroom story  today, that delves deeply into the strange set of relationships built up between controversial Chinese businessman Zhang Yikun and it appears, dozens of central and local government politicians - mostly of the National variety. 

In particular, the Chair of the Southland DC, Gary Tong appears to have become a particular target who has received travel largesse, and promotion 'well beyond his station' (he is officially described as a "Provincial Governor" in the Chinese press) in China, apparently for the purpose of establishing an influence bridgehead for the Chinese Government at that end of the country. Read the story to get the full flavour of the extraordinary lengths to which key Chinese figures here, including Zhang have been identified  for what appears to be a part of a "Belt and Road"  initiative.

The Jamie Lee-Ross story appears merely a notable incident amongst many in which Zhang has been involved. But this is by no means confined to National as evidenced by the $100,000 National donation story, but involves the Labour government as well - it having awarded Zhang an 'Order of Merit' in the Queens Birthday honours last year.  Andrew Little and ex-Minister Phil Goff appear prominent in the list of those in Zhang's orbit.

The matter involving Ruru I find of particular interest relates to the manner in which he attempted to provide a buffer between Mr Tong and David Williams who was well into his enquiries, and following up leads about a memorandum between the Southland DC and Shantou City (a thriving 5m population city on the south-east China coast) that appeared to establish a form of 'sister city' relationship, denied by both Tong and Ruru at the outset, but that is explained in the following manner:

"The email about the memorandum was “just a discussion and at a very early stage”, Ruru tells Newsroom. “Nothing further was discussed with me or the councillors and nothing further has happened.” If the process goes further, Ruru says, “then it will be discussed before any signing at council”.

But Tong signed the agreement on the council’s behalf in China. In a statement by the Shantou Foreign Affairs and Overseas Chinese Affairs Bureau, trumpeting the signing, the ceremony was attended by various municipal party officials – and, of course, Zhang.

A focus of the “Memorandum of Understanding on Strengthening Friendly Exchanges and Cooperation”, according to a translation of the press statement, is “marine life and seafood development” as well as “marine tourism”. Tong was quoted as saying the two regions could broadly cooperate in “marine fisheries, agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry and tourism”.

Given the earlier comment “nothing further has happened”, Newsroom asked Ruru to clarify. Louise Pagan, the council’s communications manager, replied: “Chief executive Steve Ruru does not want to make any further comment.”

Clearly, Ruru is not exactly sure what it is that Tong has entered into on behalf of his Council - staggering!  

There appears no doubt that the Chinese Government is targeting this country in a number of ways, and the list of former National ministers  on the boards of Chinese banks and companies here is a fair indication of just how determined it is to ensure that its tentacles remain extensive, and deep.

The targeting of a 'back-blocks' mayor may seem anomalous by comparison, but fully consistent nevertheless of what can be expected when 'road-blocks' appear in relationships with central government, and that would appear to bethe case with the current cooling at that level. Labour is smarting, and not even Winnie's long-standing and much-vaunted love-affair with Beijing is bearing fruit at the moment.

Mayor Tong is a perfectly adequate substitute in the meantime, and he appears to have the full support of what appears an equally naive coterie of councillors. Ruru just needs to 'get up to speed.' 




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