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Saturday 5 March 2011 | Published in Regional


NEW ZEALAND MP John Carter has a personal goal to pursue when he takes over the post of high commissioner here in August – to get fitter and healthier than he is now.

And maybe improve his golf handicap.

Currently holding the portfolios of Defence, Senior Citizens and Racing, Carter will leave behind the stresses of his ministerial responsibilities to take up his new diplomatic post here, considered to be one of the nicest of all NZ foreign offices.

Being rugby mad will also stand Carter in good stead here – we’re also rugby mad. Carter, an original player in the NZ Parliamentarians rugby team, will be able to get on the field here as many times as he wants during his term. Waiting in the wings to welcome him are the Mongoose Golden Oldies – rugby diehards who are looking forward to teaming up and playing with the incoming high commissioner.

But as protocol demands, the new high commissioner will undoubtedly first be extended an invitation to join the Mongoose. A Mongoose spokesman Ronnie Siulepa jokes that Carter’s first requirement when coming through Immigration and Customs will be to complete a “vigorous and comprehensive” Mongoose membership application form which will be left especially at the processing desk for him.

Siulepa adds that because Carter will be living at Ngatipa House, the official high commission residence, this could help sway his application in his favour.

A Ramoan (Rarotonga/Samoan) Siulepa says he hasn’t yet had the privilege of meeting Carter. “I don’t know him personally unless he was part of the ‘Dawn Raids’ in Auckland when they kicked my uncles out. I’m sure he’s just like us except he gets paid a lot more but I’m sure we all have the same interests being fellow rugby players.”

But fellow Mongoose Navy Epati feels that as he’ll be a resident of Tupapa, Carter will automatically be a Panther. “So any thinking about joining the Mongoose, or Masters, or the General’s Gay and Lesbian Society of Tumutevarovaro, is out of the question!”

Carter first visited the Cook Islands in 1975 when he led NZ’s first rugby tour here as president of Te Kuiti Rugby Club. His most recent visit was in 2009 as part of the successful Parliamentary Rugby team tour. CINews sports writer Matariki Wilson says “we were outclassed”.

“The NZ team fielded players who were fit and in their 40s while our papa players like Sir Terepai were looking for a friendly game to rub shoulders with some NZ politicians and maybe ask for some funding.”

Siulepa says Carter can be assured like all visitors to the Cook Islands “he will be welcomed and treated with the same respect as we would give when playing our brothers and sisters from the other five vaka”.

The Rarotonga Golf Club can also expect to see the new high commissioner on the course trying to improve his handicap. Third sporting interest is fishing, which he’ll also get plenty of in the Cook Islands.

Carter professes to be a “legend” in his Northland electorate for his tuatua fritters. He gathers the tuatuas himself and says the fritters are best eaten fresh. (Siulepa wants a cook off: tuatua fritters vs aubergine fritters)

“The weight gained over Christmas can be mostly attributed to enjoying Northland’s kai moana a little too much,” the soon-to-retire Kiwi MP says. While he enjoys Speight’s beer, Carter says he does favour a New Zealand pinot gris.

Carter will move to the Cook Islands with his wife Leoni and expects to have many family and family friends visit during his term, including their mothers who are both widows. “My interest in the Cook Islands goes back to my first visit 36 years ago and I am pleased to have the opportunity to work with the people there on the variety of shared interests we have,” says Carter.

Already several shared interests have been established. Meanwhile, the Mongoose or maybe the Panthers warm up in the wings for the new high commissioner to get here, take up the ball and head for the try line.