Diplomat impressed

Tuesday July 24, 2012 Written by Calida Smylie Published in National

Australia’s new High Commissioner to the Cook Islands says he has ”positive impressions“ of the country on his first trip here.

Michael Potts became High Commissioner to New Zealand, the Cooks and Niue on July 16. He is based in Wellington and his visit to Rarotonga has been his first overseas visit in his new role.

Since he got here on Sunday, Potts has met with Prime Minister Henry Puna, Deputy Prime Minister Tom Marsters and the Queen’s representative Sir Frederick Goodwin.

The main topic of discussion was the Pacific Leaders Forum, to be held here next month.

”We think the Cook Islands will be an excellent chair,“ said Potts. ”We know you are taking it very seriously and after seeing the work being undertaken, I am confident the Cooks will be a great host.“

The ”oceans“ theme for the Forum was discussed, with Potts saying he will look forward to a new marine park in the Cook Islands being announced.

Potts and the leaders discussed Australia and the Cook Islands working together on gender issues. This includes helping women participate more in politics, women’s’ empowerment in terms of economic participation, and reducing domestic violence.

Defence co-operation and sport also formed part of the discussions.

Potts is an experienced career diplomat. He has been High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea, ambassador to Vietnam and has had previous postings in Brunei, Darussalam, Laos, Zambia and Spain. His last posting was as ambassador to Austria.

Potts said that there are many Cook Islanders living in Australia. ”They are doing quite well, especially in the mines, but this also causes a problem with depopulation here.“

The high commissioner travelled back to Wellington yesterday afternoon. He will be back in the Cooks next month for the Forum, and after that will aim to visit here once a year.

”I have been very happy with this visit. The people are nice... I’m pleased to be working in Polynesia,“ he said.

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