New diplomatic role a boost for the Pacific - McCully
The New Zealand politician Shane Jones says he would bring wide experience and passion to a new ambassador level role focusing on Pacific fisheries.
New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully says New Zealand's new regional diplomatic job could change the fortunes of the Pacific.
He has offered the ambassador-level role to the senior opposition MP Shane Jones who announced on Tuesday he would quit parliament.
Sally Round reports.
Shane Jones says his chairing of the Maori Fisheries Commission and the company Sealord before entering parliament puts him in a good position to add value to the role focusing on Pacific fisheries.
SHANE JONES: I bring not only parliamentary experience but business experience but while the details haven't been hammered out, I'm confident that I'll be able to add value to the role of our country in the Pacific.
The job offer has raised eyebrows coming from the government to an opposition MP, who was seen as effective in the house, as New Zealand heads towards elections this year. But New Zealand's Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, who offered Mr Jones the newly-created role, says it has nothing to do with politics.
He says the job would entail making the most of opportunities from fisheries, agriculture and tourism in the region.
MURRAY MCCULLY: This is an important job. It requires a mix of commercial skills and political leadership skills. It requires an ability to navigate around the Pacific and the Small Island Developing States international community.
Mr McCully says New Zealand needs to put diplomatic muscle into the Pacific as small island developing states prepare to gather at a UN conference in Samoa later this year, a month before countries vote on seats on the UN Security Council. New Zealand is seeking Pacific Island countries' support for its bid for a non-permanent seat on the influential body.
MURRAY MCCULLY: There are a range of relationships that can be improved. You've got not just the [Pacific Islands] Forum, you've got the Forum Fisheries Agency, you've got the Parties to the Nauru Agreement and other fisheries bodies and then you've got the various governments around the region.
The former head of Oxfam, Barry Coates, says despite Mr Jones' fisheries experience it is unclear what role he could play given the number of existing initiatives to conserve fish stocks and increase returns for countries in the region. Mr Coates says Pacific Island countries have choices in development partners now and New Zealand needs to be careful about how it builds relationships with its neighbours.
BARRY COATES: We've got to show respect and although Shane Jones obviously has good qualifications in fisheries, I think it would be useful to make sure our diplomatic initiatives are well-connected up through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade which presumably should be leading on these things rather than (them) being a free flowing political initiative.
A former senior New Zealand diplomat, Terence O'Brien, says he does not know what the role can achieve that can't be gained through normal diplomatic channels.
TERENCE O'BRIEN: We have an aid programme which is heavily tilted in favour of South Pacific recipient partners, we have an active unit in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade that's devoted to aid. We've got a minister and a deputy minister as well as a head of the parliamentary select committee on the South Pacific. We've got a lot of ducks in line already.
Shane Jones says he still has to address the dimensions and details of the role with Mr McCully.
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