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High Commissioner’s term ends

Saturday 3 December 2022 | Written by Supplied | Published in Features, National, Politics

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High Commissioner’s term ends
Cook Islands High Commissioner to New Zealand, Elizabeth Wright-Koteka stepped down this week after serving her four-year term. MFAI/22120248

Elizabeth Wright-Koteka has finished her term as the Cook Islands High Commissioner to New Zealand, and will return to Rarotonga today.

A spokesperson from the Office of the Prime Minister confirmed Wright-Koteka, who was appointed in November 2018, has served her term.

The spokesperson said the Government had not made announcements of a replacement yet.

In an interview with Pacific Media Network this week, Wright-Koteka said her term was a “very interesting journey”.

“I guess it started off like any other journey, where one tries to figure out one’s place in the role, and the things you plan to do for the duration of your tenure,” Wright-Koteka said.

“I laid out my plans in my first year, but of course, all these plans had to change, when the world changed with the arrival of Covid-19.”

Wright-Koteka said the Covid-19 years saw a lot of engagement with New Zealand around the closing and reopening of borders, vaccination of Covid-19, and recovery.

“At the same time, the office continued to do its core duties,” Wright-Koteka said.

“I learned a lot from that time. We tried to be proactive in engaging people in terms of vaccination and offering support to families who needed it.”

Wright-Koteka said Covid-19 completely changed the conversation.

“Whereas in the past conversations would be about matters relating to global issues, to things happening in the United Nations, it changed to conversations about how do we protect people, and how we stop the economy from falling over, the things that impact directly on people’s lives,” she said.

“Through that, I think it strengthened our relationships. It strengthened the office’s engagement with New Zealand. When we were talking about quarantine-free travel, it increased our engagement with Customs, with border control, with Auckland Airport and Air New Zealand, and the Ministry of Health.”

Wright-Koteka said the Covid-19 experience led to her connecting more with the Cook Islands.

“Both times, when there were lockdowns, we had hundreds of people who were normally resident in the Cook Islands stranded in New Zealand,” she said.

“When I came into this role, I pondered on about what was going to be my engagement with my people, with our diaspora, and how which is quite difficult for an office with two diplomats and one administrative staff, and with a diaspora that is spread throughout the country.

“One of the things I did do was reach out via the churches. Through that engagement, I got to learn a lot of our leaders … I always appreciate the digital platforms we use to connect … my only regret is that because our community is so spread out, it has been difficult to reach each and every part of the community. But we have tried.”

Prior to becoming High Commissioner to New Zealand, Wright-Koteka was Chief of Staff and Energy Commissioner with the Office of the Prime Minister from 2012-2017.