What Amazon wanted from New Zealand’s prime minister

Amazon has reached out to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's office about data center plans, an official Information Act request indicates.

Amazon giant has reached out to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for comment on policy and support for a multibillion-dollar data center being built here.

Phil Pennington’s rnz.co.nz

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has asked Jacinda Ardern to appoint a “competent” minister or senior official to obtain the consent of the Overseas Investment Office without delay and to discuss bringing in skilled IT personnel from overseas. OIA) response is displayed.

AWS also wants to “discuss opportunities to fine-tune New Zealand’s policy settings to support public sector cloud technology support”, including how Amazon can meet the requirements for hosting highly classified data. said.

In the 39-page OIA, Ardern, her office, and several of the 12 data center companies that previously released documents are seeking government assistance and urging ministers to put an end to bureaucracy on Auckland’s various data center construction projects. The requested letter is included. and South Island.

Read the full OIA here (page 39)

The two largest global players, AWS and Microsoft, are at the forefront of the correspondence.

But the letter and email also included a letter from Catalyst, a small regional cloud computing company, asking if Ardern could visit in June 2022. seperately). She did not visit, Catalyst told RNZ.

The longest letter is seven pages in September 2021, and AWS promotes a $7.5 billion direct investment in Ardern.

“With the right mix of technological capabilities, a strong policy and regulatory environment, and a skilled workforce, we see New Zealand’s potential to become a leader on the global stage with advanced cloud technologies based on hyperscale for the first time.” said Amazon.

Ardern wrote back several times in 2021 and 2022, expressing enthusiasm for AWS and Microsoft’s data center plans without making any specific commitments.

“Obviously working together and having the right policies in place can make a real difference,” she wrote in a letter to the AWS CEO in September of this year.

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What Amazon Wanted

Amazon told the Prime Minister in September 2021 that it would like the government to “identify relevant ministers who can work with us to identify opportunities for cooperation and agree on mutual commitments that can help us unlock the full potential of this investment.” hope,” he said.

Under the heading “Working with the New Zealand Government”, we raised five issues that we would like your input or assistance with.

  • We plan to make “impactful” announcements in the month of our data center planning. “We will aim to keep the drumbeat of positive updates going through 2022 and 2023 and as we prepare for release.”
  • Cloud Computing Workforce Growth: “We also want to discuss industry challenges arising from restrictions on sourcing highly skilled technical personnel from abroad. We would like to discuss sectoral contracts or similar feasibility. Important Skills and Positions”, Amazon also trained local workers.
  • Public Services: “Enhanced mechanisms to support public sector cloud adoption, including building a modern and improved … procurement panel’”
  • Making regulators – Reserve banks mentioned – more aware of cloud benefits: “We are seeking government advice and support on how best to initiate and maintain educational dialogues with various industry regulators.”
  • Project progress “as soon as possible”

After listing them, the AWS executive, whose name and title was left blank, told Ardern, “I hope that as a next step right away, a senior AWS representative from New Zealand can meet with you and the minister to discuss this proposal in more detail.”

It is not clear what happened to that request, or whether the other five issues raised were resolved by a letter from AWS.

Arder met top leaders from Amazon and Microsoft in the US in May of this year.

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AWS required approval from the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) and received approval in March of this year.

AWS said in a September 2021 letter that AWS would initiate applications, saying, “We appreciate the New Zealand Government’s support in ensuring that consent applications are considered in a timely manner to support the fastest possible rollout of infrastructure.”

OIO said on March 25 that “the applicant met the criteria for the investor test and the national interest test” for the ‘significant business assets only’ agreement. The OIO’s time frame for evaluating this type of consent is 35 business days.

In a 2021 letter, AWS said it wants to replace its cloud framework contract with the government.

A new agreement was launched in July of this year allowing eligible government agencies to purchase public cloud services from AWS under standardized terms.

jobs, water and energy

AWS launched IT training, including polytechnics, for 20,000 trainees per year over five years.

In a letter to Ardern, AWS said it wanted to help talk to Auckland City Council about water management projects and possible investments in smart water technologies.

On the front of the regulator, “hard [to] Working with central banks to demonstrate the compliance, security and business benefits of cloud services in the banking sector.”

Amazon spoke to the Prime Minister about cloud data and analytics to bolster climate change work and the energy sector, where “regulatory review provides a rare opportunity for New Zealand to leverage global best practices”.

The OIA letter also includes Google asking if Ardern can open a new Auckland office in late 2021. Her diary does not show her doing so.

Google said it is not building a data center here, but employs about 50 people and has a local software engineering team.

“Collaboration… is increasing”

In May of this year, the award met with AWS CEO Adam Selipsky and Microsoft President Brad Smith in Seattle.

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In July, Microsoft hosted a podcast called Tools and Weapons, where Smith interviewed Ardern about online extremism.

The OIA on communication with the Prime Minister includes Microsoft’s outline of goals and action plans in the July podcast.

Microsoft’s Smith interviewed Ardern as part of a virtual summit of APEC chief executives and governments in November 2020.

A related article from the cloud PR firm, written by a PR staffer at CCL, a Spark subsidiary, said “there is increasing collaboration between Microsoft and New Zealand at the government level”.

Newshub quoted Smith as speaking at the event calling New Zealand a “beacon of hope” on the Christchurch Call and discussing climate change.

a smaller invitation

In June of this year, related technology company Catalyst Cloud sent Ardern an email congratulating him on pursuing New Zealand’s case in the United States with two of the three New Zealand government-approved cloud computing providers (AWS and Microsoft).

But Dave Moskovitz also asked if Ardern knew about the third Catalyst itself, which was “based here in Wellington.”

It was the only one “owned by New Zealanders and responding only to the New Zealand legal system with a purpose specifically for the benefit of New Zealand”.

“We don’t own superyachts, private jets or spacecraft,” said Moskovitz.

“I drive around in my 2007 Prius because it’s the right thing to do.

“We support people and organizations that align with our values ​​of being kind and doing the right thing. The other two providers have questionable qualifications for business ethics.”

He suggested that Ardern’s work to stop web hate through the Christchurch Call might have shown her how difficult it is to influence AWS, Microsoft, and others.

“We believe it is important that New Zealanders who are responsive to the New Zealand Government have control of vital New Zealand resources.”

Moskovitz invited Ardern to visit Catalyst’s headquarters on Willis St.

He told RNZ that she hadn’t visited.

“Her EA said there was no room in ‘this year’ schedule,” said Moskovitz.


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