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[Media Release - OPSC] Reappointment of Chief of Staff, Office of the Prime Minister

Thursday 21 October 2021

Media Release

Mr Ben Ponia has been re-appointed as the Chief of Staff, Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) for a second 3-year term. Ponia has almost 20 years’ experience working in various senior management roles across the Government and regionally in the Pacific.

Ponia began his extensive career in the Public Service in the early 1990’s working for the Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR) whilst also conducting research for his Masters of Science degree. His term with MMR culminated with his appointment as the Secretary for the Ministry in 2010 – a post he served in for over eight years. Prior to taking on this position as Secretary, Ponia served as a regional advisor with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community based in New Caledonia for almost nine years. His longevity in the Public Service is testament to his commitment and dedication to the Cook Islands. Strongly nationalistic, Ponia sticks to the fundamentals, is methodical in the way he operates and is driven in exploring opportunities to continuously advance national priorities in a sustainable manner.

During his first term as Chief of Staff, Ponia, along with his OPM team, was able to adopt the OPM Strategic Plan 2019-2024, deliver on the second National Sustainable Development Plan; and commission the last of the southern group solar power stations. During this term, the Cook Islands became the first Pacific Island country to be directly accredited to the Green Climate Fund (GCF). Much of the last two years of the Chief of Staff’s time, has also been invested in managing the all-of-Government responses to Covid-19.

OPM comprises of ten divisions - Cabinet Services, Central Policy and Planning Office (CPPO), Pa Enua Governance Division, National ITC Office, Renewable Energy Development Division (REDD), emergency management Cook Islands office (EMCI), climate change Cook Islands office (CCCI), Marae Moana Coordination Office (MMCO), Corporate Services Division, and National Security Directorate. The Chief of Staff is responsible for the employment of 60 plus full time staff and consultants, including the Executive Officers for the Pa Enua Island Government.

For his second term, Ponia’s focus is to continue to ensure that the Prime Minister is being well-supported and has access to sound and robust advice. Moreover, Ponia intends to commence and complete the roll out of Government’s upgraded ICT network; improve connectivity and services to the Pa Enua; mainstream the 100 year National Sustainable Development Agenda (NSDA) vision; tap into global grants and co-investments into climate resilient infrastructure; facilitate institutional strengthening of our national emergency management services; conduct a legislative review of the Island Government Act; facilitate an increased uptake of renewable solar energy on Rarotonga; ensure greater coordination in the Marae Moana space; and, develop an improved protective security framework inclusive of cybersecurity for national security.

The Public Service Commissioner Carl Hunter, looks forward to working closely with him over the next three years. Hunter commented that during his tenure in the Pacific Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “I developed a cordial working relationship with Ben - both during his time at SPC followed by when he was appointed Secretary for MMR. That relationship was built on a combination of trust, respect and teamwork. I am both confident and hopeful that the professional relationship we forged back then will continue in the key roles we now hold for the benefit of our Government, people and country”.


Enquiries regarding this media release can be directed to Teresa Tura, Corporate Services Manager, at or call 29 421 during Office hours. This article will be posted to

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