News 26 Nov 2017
Mixed feelings sums up the way New Zealand High Commissioner to Vanuatu HE Georgina Roberts (pictured) is feeling currently as she comes to the end of almost four years in Vanuatu.
Speaking at a reception hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) for the visiting Pacific Heads of Mission (HOM) in Auckland on Thursday (November 23), Georgina says changes are on the horizon for her.
She has recently been appointed the Director of Pacific Connections, a new role created by MFAT, which will be based in Auckland and starts in January 2018.
The new role, created after MFAT recognised the need to build more senior leadership capacity and engagement with the Pacific and Maori constituency based in Auckland, means Georgina will leave her Port Vila post she has filled since April 2014.
“I have mixed emotions about leaving Vanuatu because when you live in a community for a period of time, you build connections and linkages professionally and personally but I am looking forward to coming home,” Georgina says.
Home for Georgina (of Ngati Porou, Ngaiterangi, Ngati Kuri, and Te Whanau a Ruataupare heritage) is the East Coast of the North Island and Matakana Island in the Bay of Plenty, however, she is excited about living in the largest Pacific populated city in NZ.
Her role will entail facilitating and hosting Pacific visitors and strengthening MFAT’s awareness to better work with Pacific community here and also in the region, she explains.
Georgina is most excited about having the opportunity to create and develop how the role and her team will work, working with others at MFAT.
Initially, Georgina’s focus will be on meeting people and building connections, she adds.
“This week has been great for that,” she says, referring to the Pacific HOMs three-day visit to Wellington and two-day visit to Auckland.
In Wellington, the HOM addressed a number of challenges Pacific nations presently face in areas such as health and the environment and looked at how respective countries are dealing with these challenges, and what NZ can be doing to assist their Pacific neighbours.
Heads of Mission spent time in Parliament, meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Rt. Hon. Winston Peters and other ministers to discuss the new government’s priorities and approach.
On arriving in Auckland, the HOM met with the Ministry of Pacific Peoples (MPP) and visited health and housing initiatives in South Auckland, and attended the Pacific Cooperation Foundation (PCF) facilitated Pacific Heads of Mission Breakfast, at Viaduct Events Centre.
Georgina also plans to spend time refreshing the engagement map and network, identifying up and coming talent among Pasifika and iwi, and engage with stakeholders such as PCF, Pasifika TV and New Zealand Institute of Pacific Research (NZIPR).
During Georgina’s four years in Vanuatu, she has experienced many highs and lows – from which she has gained experience and learnings about the Pacific she will take into her new role.
Several events stick out in her mind as particularly poignant, including Cyclone Pam in 2015.
“The impact it had was devastating but also the role New Zealand played in response to it was humbling and very rewarding professionally … it was challenging but many positives came out of it.”
Her most enjoyable moment in Vanuatu has been the official opening and handover of the Vanuatu Tourism Infrastructure Project – the beautification of the Port Vila waterfront, primarily funded by the NZ Government, along with the Vanuatu Government and EIF (Enhanced Integrated Framework).
Georgina was also there for the breaking of the ground in August 2015, and says to see a project through its duration has been special.
She adds 2017 has been great due to it being the 30th anniversary of the NZ High Commission’s establishment in Port Vila.
Each month has highlighted a different element of the bilateral relationship between Vanuatu and NZ and it has been a year of celebration.
Celebrations will continue for Georgina as she reconnects with whanau and friends in NZ after eight years offshore, and begins a new, exciting role with widespread benefits to Pacific in NZ and in the region.
Meanwhile, HE Jonathan Schwass has been appointed as NZ’s next High Commissioner to Vanuatu.
HE NZ High Commissioner to Fiji Mark Ramsden is leaving his post and HE Jonathan Curr will take up the reins early next year, and HE Bruce Shepherd will take up the role of Consul General in New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna in January 2018.