Press Releases

Friday 28 September 2018



The Public Service Commissioner is pleased to announce the appointment of Ben Ponia as the new Chief of Staff of the Office of the Prime Minister.   Ponia took up his post today with an official introduction by the Prime Minister, Hon Henry Puna to all the staff of the Office of the Prime Minister.

As Chief of Staff, Ponia is optimistic that as a nation we are gifted with talent, resources, and opportunity. He wanted to continue his association with the Cook Islands Government as Chief of Staff, Office of the Prime Minister, because he strongly believes in its mission, and in his abilities to serve.  He welcomes the challenge of working with dedicated staff, Government Agencies, local communities (particularly in the Pa Enua), international partners and the private sector. He believes that we have an obligation to build on past efforts to ensure for the sake of our future generations, that we sustainably explore our nation’s potential.

Ponia will be overseeing the Office of the Prime Minister, which as a central agency, their key role has been to provide excellent service in the following areas; (renewable energy, ICT, Emergency management, Climate Change policies, etc.) to our Government, while at the same time ensuring that they provide reasoned strategic advice that advances our whole country.  They have delivered on, core Government functions for the public sector, and on a number of significant sustainable environmental projects. These projects will have a long-lasting impact on the future of the Cook Islands and as such, OPM has undertaken their role as custodians and stewards seriously for our islands, oceans, culture and heritage.  Ponia’s experience in the marine sector will be invaluable in guiding the full implementation of Te Marae Moana. Ponia’s experience in spending his formative years with the Ministry of Marine Resources working in the Pa Enua will bode him well, given that Pa Enua Island Governments are supported by the OPM.

In 2000, Ponia joined the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) in New Caledonia as a Manager in the Marine Division where he successfully developed, and led a Regional Programme for Aquaculture for 10 years. He has worked with many Pacific Islands in developing Government policies, local capacity and small business enterprises. He has conducted country missions throughout the Pacific and fostered regional partnerships with development agencies and donors. He has also strengthened the Asia-Pacific network, travelling extensively through Asia and in particular China as it emerged as an economic powerhouse.

Despite the prospect for a successful career with SPC, he decided to take up the then vacant post of Secretary of the Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR) in 2010.   Under his leadership, Ponia was able to realise the potential of the sector, and in particular, the sustainable utilisation of a large untapped tuna fishery, which entailed a sharp learning curve. The MMR has been successful in deriving large amounts of revenue from the fishery collecting up to $19 million dollars per annum.

At MMR, he championed the issue of livelihoods and household food security, and addressing depopulation in the Pa Enua by channelling support towards local fishermen and small-scale development.   He has also led MMR to become a leader in the region in terms of compliance and management through sophisticated fisheries surveillance operations, and the provision of scientific data.

Ben has a public service career spanning eighteen years. He holds a Master of Science degree from James Cook University in Australia, has a graduate fellowship from East West Center in Hawaii and is currently enrolled in a PhD with at the School of Law in the University of Wollongong in Australia, looking at the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and its implications for Small Island States.

The Office of the Public Service Commissioner is confident that under his tenure as Chief of Staff, Ponia will be able to ensure that the Office of the Prime Minister will deliver on major national development projects that will allow the Cook Islands to achieve our national vision as articulated in the National Sustainable Development Plan – “To enjoy the highest quality of life consistent with the aspirations of our people, and in harmony with our culture and environment”




The Public Service Commissioner has confirmed three new Heads of Ministries – Ms Diane Charlie-Puna as Secretary of the Ministry of Infrastructure Cook Islands (ICI); Ms Pamela Maru as  Secretary of the Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR); and Ms Temarama Anguna as Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Ms Diane Charlie-Puna replaces former Secretary Ngametua College Pokino who served in this position since 2015.  Pokino was previously Acting Island Secretary of Mangaia since 2012.

Ms Charlie-Puna has over the course of her 5 years at ICI, developed and implemented business improvement systems to strengthen the foundation of ICI through strong policies, systems, processes, and legislation.  Charlie-Puna has for the past 15 years built a successful career in management and leadership in the public sector.  She is confident that she can make an immediate positive contribution to ICI to continue achieving its strategic and organisational goals and outcomes.  Charlie-Puna graduated with First Class Honours in a Masters of Philosophy this year and with a Masters of Business Administration in 2011.


Ms Pamela Maru replaces former Secretary Ben Ponia who was Secretary since 2010.  Ponia has worked for MMR for a total duration of 18 years beginning in 1988 as an Intern on a Government university scholarship.

Ms Maru is currently working as a Fisheries Management Adviser for the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) in Honiara, Solomon Islands, since 2012.   She commenced her fisheries career in MMR which has covered all aspects of fisheries management, including both the national and regional context across both management and monitoring, control and surveillance.  Ms Maru understands that there is a strong need to ensure that marine resources are managed to optimize its use in enhancing food security and improving the livelihoods of our people, and to identify and take advantage of opportunities to diversity the country’s economy and strengthening autonomy, whilst balancing our social, cultural and moral values.  Ms Maru has a Bachelor of Science.


Ms Temarama Anguna replaces the retiring Secretary Dr Matairangi Purea who has been Secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture since 2012.  Dr Purea brought extensive national and regional experience in agricultural/horticultural production, research and management.

Ms Anguna was the Human Resources Manager for the Ministry of Health and has management qualities in HR management, strategic and business planning, policy development, knowledge and information management and risk management.  Ms Anguna is looking forward to the challenges of this new leadership role and will continue to advocate for innovative solutions for the Agriculture sector.  Ms Anguna has a Master of Business Administration and will soon graduate with a Post Graduate Diploma in Commerce majoring in Public Sector Administration.