The government has named heads of mission to three key diplomatic posts, in Iran, Ethiopia and Indonesia.
In announcing them, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta was herself at her most diplomatic.
Mike Walsh is to be Ambassador to Iran, where, she says, NZ has a “constructive relationship, despite a number of challenges”.
Michael Upton will be Ambassador to Ethiopia where, according to Mahuta, “NZ is taking a strong interest in developments, particularly the current challenges faced in Tigray.”
Kevin Burnett will become Ambassador in Jakarta. Mahuta says NZ “enjoys a strong relationship with Indonesia. As Pacific neighbours, with complementary economies, we are natural partners”.
Walsh, a career diplomat, who has held postings in Samoa, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Kiribati, will also be accredited to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Mahuta says the NZ Embassy in Tehran, which opened in 1975, is NZ’s oldest in the Middle East.
Walsh’s previous experience includes working in MFAT’s Development, United Nations and Commonwealth, Environment, Economic, Trade Negotiations, Pacific and most recently Māori Policy division. His iwi affiliations are to Taranaki, Whanganui River, Otaki, and Te Whanganui a Tara.
The minister – while noting Upton has a professional background in International Development, with extensive experience working across the Pacific region – points out NZ and Ethiopia have a traditionally warm relationship underpinned by development co-operation, and long-standing shared multilateral interests.
“Ethiopia is also home to the headquarters of the African Union, and is an important political and economic hub for Africa. Given our values based foreign policy, NZ is taking a strong interest in developments in Ethiopia, particularly the current challenges faced in Tigray.”
Upton joined MFAT in 2008. He has managed the Pacific Economic Development Programme and held several postings to Samoa and Kiribati where he was most recently High Commissioner.
He will also be accredited to, Djibouti, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles and Uganda.
Mahuta says NZ and Indonesia in 2018 have celebrated 60 years of diplomatic relations.
The visit by President Joko Widodo to NZ in March 2018 was the first by an Indonesian President to NZ since 2005. During the visit, leaders announced the elevation of the bilateral relationship to a Comprehensive Partnership, reflecting the increasing value of the relationship.
Burnett is a career public servant and has previously held roles at Defence and the Ministry of Justice.
He was the Chief of Staff at MFAT and principal adviser to the Chief Executive in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Most recently Burnett was the Consul-General to Honolulu and Ambassador to Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, and Republic of the Marshall Islands.
Point of Order understands Mahuta has several more diplomatic postings under review. But onetime Labour politicians who may think they are in line for some of the more prestigious postings may have to wait some time before she discloses what’s in her mind.
There has been a whisper of Phil Goff letting it be known in the upper echelons of the Ardern ministry that he might be available for London or Washington, but not till after the local elections next year.
And Dame Annette King, who took up the role of High Commissioner in Canberra in 2018 after 30 years in politics, may be looking forward to her retirement. She celebrates her 74th birthday in September.