“Kua tavini ana i te ipukarea ma te tiratiratu – in recognition of national service with integrity and distinction to the people of the Cook Islands”. This was the theme of the 35th anniversary dinner of Te Kauono Tutara e te Mana Tiaki – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI) held earlier this year.
Attended by current and former staff of MFAI, senior government representatives and family of the awardees, the gathering was amongst a handful of events hosted by MFAI in 2019 to mark the 35th anniversary of the Ministry. The dinner celebrated the long service contributions of current staff and a handful of early pioneers in service to the people of the Cook Islands through the work of the Ministry. The dinner was held on the 7 August, the same day as the launch of the Ministry’s Statement of Strategic Intentions 2019-2024.
“The evening was an opportunity for the MFAI community, current and past staff, to come together to reflect on MFAI’s work over 35 years and acknowledge the valuable contributions of some of our pioneers and long service staff and their families,” said MFAI Secretary Tepaeru Herrmann. The nature of MFAI work requires of staff integrity, resourcefulness, community spirit, loyalty and commitment to national service. For staff of the Foreign Service, being able to cultivate and manage a diverse and complex array of working relationships and prolonged periods of absence from family imposed by travel duty while living in a close knit community presents unique challenges. In the Immigration Service, balancing national security imperatives with critical economic development goals requires high levels of integrity of officials.
Recipients were presented commemorative plaques and a certificate by the Queen’s Representative, Sir Tom Marsters and the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration the Hon. Henry Puna.
Recipients in the pioneers category included Tutai Toru, Iaveta Short and Dr. Jim Gosselin. The following current staff were recognised for their long public service and significant contributions to the work of the Ministry - Nga Kamana (35 years MFAI), Tukaka Ama (35 years Public Service), Arakura Tatuava (32 years MFAI), Nga Potoru (31 years MFAI), Tangi Nooapii (31 years MFAI), Tangi Aererua (30 years MFAI), and Josh Mitchell (26 years Public Service).
In the pioneers category, Tutai served in the Ministry’s Immigration Service for 38 years, most of that as Principal Immigration Officer. He was responsible for the design and operation of the border control system when the Rarotonga International Airport opened in 1974 and was manager to a handful of current immigration officers who received long service awards. Amongst various roles in Cook Islands Public Service, Iaveta was Cabinet Minister 1978-1983 and served as General Consul, Cook Islands Representative and High Commissioner for the Cook Islands to New Zealand resident in Wellington from 1985-98. Iaveta led several Government negotiations, including the Cook Islands becoming a signatory to the Law of the Sea Convention, Ansett joint venture and landing rights to Sydney, return of Rarotonga Airport to Cook Islands control and various others. Jim joined the Cook Islands Public Service in 1972 as Chief Administration Officer in Pukapuka. Following roles as Chief Electoral Officer, Director for Outer Island Affairs, Chief Planning Officer, Jim joined the Foreign Service initially as International Legal Advisor and thereafter, Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Immigration. The negotiation of the Joint Centenary Declaration with New Zealand and Cook Islands membership of the African Caribbean Pacific Group and by extension, diplomatic relations with the European Union were amongst significant negotiations Jim led during his tenure with MFAI. Jim was very recently appointed National Security Advisor by MFAI who is leading development of the country’s first National Security Policy.
Each of the current staff who are long service recipients are dedicated, talented Cook Islanders and valuable members of the MFAI team. Nga Kamana has been with the Ministry since the beginning, having served under 7 Foreign Secretaries. She started as a receptionist, typist, and now heads the Corporate Services Division of the Ministry. Kaka began his protocol career in 1989 under the late Kopu Brown with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and has been Chief of Protocol for more than 15 years within MFAI. Arakura has the most varied experience within the Ministry having worked across a number of Divisions in his 32 years with MFAI. He joined the Ministry in 1987 as a Clerk and is currently serving as Senior Finance Officer. Nga Potoru, Tangi Nooapii and Tangi Aererua started their 30+ years in immigration in the late 1980s and it is testament to their expertise and value to the Ministry they were able to retain their jobs through the economic crisis of the mid-1990’s when many in the public sector lost their jobs. Josh began his career with Government in fisheries, working for the Ministry of Marine Resources from 1993 to 2013 where he was integrally involved in various international fisheries negotiations on behalf of Government. Josh joined MFAI as Director for UN & Treaties and is overseeing the development of the Ministry’s international engagement on oceans work program.
Common in the acknowledgement remarks from all ten recipients during the dinner was appreciation for the recognition award and immense pride in serving our ipukarea. A number of recipients spoke about the hardships during the transition period, when bankruptcy saw colleagues and friends laid off work, and being forced to relocate to New Zealand and those who retained their jobs having to work for minimal pay. “Asides from celebrating the Ministry’s 35 years existence and contributions to national development, the evening was to say thank you, to our MFAI people, past and present, for their sacrifices and contributions, together with those of their families. It is their contributions and sacrifices, together with those by many other Cook Islanders in public service, business and community, over decades, that has built this nation to what it is today,” said Ms Herrmann. “As MFAI heads into 2020, it will continue to draw on our MFAI community as a source of inspiration and empowerment for our work, not least with to remind ourselves of the sacrifices that have been made previously for what we have today, and the ingenuity and courage of those from yesteryears on whose shoulders we stand so we may always be guided by the ethos of public service we signed up for when we joined MFAI and the public service. Taku Ipukarea kia rangatira”.
Further insight into each recipient, their contributions to the work of MFAI and perspectives will be shared by the Ministry from January 2020. Queries on this media release can be directed to Siai.Taylor@cookislands.gov.ck and more pictures of the evening can be found on MFAI FB page at https://www.facebook.com/mfaicookislands/posts/1441694349330134?__tn__=K-R