Three new heads of mission are appointed and there are more diplomatic posts to be filled

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.

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