News 28 Jun 2018
Stepping in for Bruce Shepherd, Consul General for New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna at the PCF Head of Missions (HOMS) Breakfast last month was all part of the job for Linda Te Puni.
Linda held roles in the French territories previously in a lengthy and distinguished career, beginning when she joined the (then) Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1987. For her, a diplomatic career is not a job. It’s a profession and a way of life. So the breakfast allowed Linda to showcase the opportunities that exist within the various French territories, while keeping in mind the significance of New Caledonia’s upcoming independence referendum on November 4.
“It’s undoubtedly the biggest item on the agenda for New Caledonia,” she says, referring to the possibility it could gain independence, although current polls suggest it will remain as a French territory.
“But New Caledonia is very much open for business. There’s a sense of greater political stability across the French territories in general in recent years.”
That stability is reflected in strong tourism numbers across the region, including French Polynesia, with significant investments in tourism infrastructure.
Being Maori (Ngai Tahu – Waihopai, Te Atiawa – Te Whiti, Taranaki), Linda sees plenty of potential in strengthening ancestral ties as fellow Polynesians.
The Maori links also came to the fore in what she describes as her proudest moment, assuming the Head of Mission role as High Commissioner to the Cook Islands in 2010.
“I was the first woman in that role and was immensely proud as a Maori to be appointed in the country of our Cook Island Maori cousins,” she says.
Linda’s Head of Mission role also includes Tuvalu, which has gained worldwide attention due to its extreme vulnerability to climate change. The average height of its islands are less than two metres above sea level.
With $US 36 million in funding from the Tuvalu Coastal Adaptation Project through the Green Climate Fund, the government’s focus is on resilience and adaptation to enable them to stay.
“There’s a lot of work being done on coastal protection measures, particularly with the small outer islands,” she says.
“There’s significant investment in infrastructure, which will include a new airport terminal. Funafuti (Tuvalu’s capital) is a hive of activity and Tuvalu’s looking forward to hosting the Pacific Island Forum for the first time next year, so there’s a lot to look forward to.”