On Saturday, there was a Trans-Pacific Partnership protest in Auckland. Kiwis were protesting the unclear terms of the 12-country trade deal and claiming that the deal is not in New Zealand’s best interests.
Media outlets (Stuff, Radio New Zealand) reported that Americans were sent an email from the Auckland consulate to steer clear of the protest, as the march would go down to the American consulate a few blocks down.
I’m an American. A damn millennial, at that! I work in digital media. I didn’t get that email. I learned about it from my husband. After I walked right by the protest before it began. The beginnings of that protest had no indicators it would get crazy. Perhaps I’m immune to protests, they were pretty common in DC.
The reason I did not receive the email, my guess, is that I’m not registered with the State Department as being in New Zealand.
The answer to this is to register with the Bureau of Consular Affairs. It has a database (STEP) Americans opt in for so that when Americans travel internationally, State Department has an idea of where they are. I’ve registered trips to the Middle East and Europe before. But didn’t think to register a move to New Zealand. That needs to be updated.
Perhaps I’m naive, but I would have thought there would be a better way for staying in touch with one’s native country. The embassy or consulate could have put the notice on its website. Or tweeted it. Or better promoted the opt-in communication process, putting the power in the expat’s hands (or else there are privacy concerns).
I’ve made the effort to opt in for alerts by emailing the consulate, asking to be added to any expat-related email lists.
As for the danger of the Auckland protest? Yeah, nah. The Auckland protest was fine. Here are the news reports from each of the major NZ news orgs regarding the Anti-TPP protests here, here, here, here and here (full disclosure, I work at this one). Not one mentions the Auckland protest getting out of hand.
Even though I think that US consulate’s Auckland protest message was a little ridiculous, I still would have liked to have received it. If the US thinks something is dangerous, I’d like to at least find the warning online, receive it and read it.