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Samuela appointed new Cook Islands High Commissioner to New Zealand

Wednesday 26 April 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Economy, National

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Samuela appointed new Cook Islands High Commissioner to New Zealand
Cook Islands’ new High Commissioner to New Zealand Kairangi Samuela with Prime Minister Mark Brown. MFAI/23042435 23042436

Former principal immigration officer Kairangi Samuela has been confirmed as the Cook Islands’ new High Commissioner to New Zealand.

Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Mark Brown hosted Samuela and her family last week at the Prime Minister’s Office.

Samuela takes up a three-year posting as High Commissioner to New Zealand and Head of Mission of the Cook Islands High Commission in Wellington, said a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration.

In the presence of the Prime Minister, family members, and staff from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI), Samuela pledged to undertake her duties as High Commissioner with integrity and determination in service to the government and the people of the Cook Islands.

PM Brown emphasised the importance of the Wellington mission, which coordinates bilateral engagements with New Zealand and 30 countries that maintain missions in Wellington and have established diplomatic relations with the Cook Islands.

In wishing the High Commissioner-designate well in her assumption of High Commissioner responsibilities, Brown reminded her of the impact of Covid-19 and the Cook Islands economic recovery endeavour, which required MFAI’s elevated efforts to expand bilateral partnerships and secure new investments, with the Wellington Office integral to those efforts.

Samuela assumes the High Commissioner role after serving eight years as the Cook Islands Principal Immigration Officer (PIO) and a senior member of the MFAI Senior Leadership Team.

As PIO, she led the modernisation of the Cook Islands Immigration legislative framework with the passing of the new Immigration Act in 2021 and the Immigration Regulations in 2022/23, the statement said.

During the Covid-imposed international border closures throughout 2020 and 2021, Samuela assumed chair of the Border Agencies Taskforce responsibilities, playing an integral leadership role during a time of unprecedented disruption and anxiety.

Her PIO leadership contributions have seen the development and implementation of the Cook Islands electronic immigration border management system and online processing of permanent residence applications through the MFAI website.

In the regional space, Samuela’s leadership contributions included delivering chair responsibilities for the Pacific Immigration Development Community (PIDC) between 2019 and 2021, and being a Regional Representative to the PIDC Board between 2015 - 2017.

Beyond government, Samuela’s leadership contributions, over a number of years, led to ensuring the ongoing viability and operations of Punanga Tauturu – the Cook Islands Women’s Counselling Centre. In addition, she served as deputy chair of the Board of the Bank of the Cook Islands from 2010 to 2015.

MFAI Secretary Tepaeru Hermann said: “The appointment of Samuela as High Commissioner is recognition by our government of the pertinent competencies, experience, and expertise she brings to the High Commissioner role, which has two distinct dimensions – our international relationships and our relationship with our diaspora, the Cook Islands community resident in New Zealand. I am confident she will deliver her responsibilities with the patriotism and determination we've seen.”

New Zealand is the Cook Islands’ most significant international partner, with both countries signing the Waka Hourua/Vaka Purua Statement of Partnership in October 2022 during a visit to Rarotonga from New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta, which will serve as the forward framework for bilateral cooperation with New Zealand.

The Cook Islands’ former High Commissioner to New Zealand Elizabeth Wright-Koteka, who completed her tenure in December 2022, is now Secretary of Infrastructure Cook Islands.

Deputy High Commissioner Piakura Passfield has performed High Commissioner duties since December and will continue her Deputy High Commissioner role once Samuela is in Office.