The appointment of Robert Kaiwai as New Zealand’s High Commissioner to Kiribati is great news for him, for his iwi, and for the nation, says the Maori Party.
“We’re really buzzed to hear of his appointment, and we know he’ll do an excellent job for Aotearoa, and for Kiribati,” said Foreign Affairs spokesman Hone Harawira.
“My colleague Tariana Turia tells me Rob was a big help and a generous host when she visited Taiwan,” said Mr Harawira.
“Rob follows in a line of Maori diplomats who have served our nation with distinction – including the late Sir Charles Bennett and Sir John Te Herekiekie Grace, Tia Barrett, Sandra Lee and many others.
“Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia to which he is accredited, are small but significant neighbours of ours in the Pacific, with whom we have strong links,” he said.
“I have had the opportunity to travel to Palau myself, and I know that as Pacific nations we face many serious issues in common, like climate change, sea level rises, and the over-fishing of species like tuna - problems which require co-operation and collaboration to solve.
“And I have no doubt that Rob will play a important and positive role in that co-operation through the Pacific Forum and the Pacific Fisheries Commission.
“The Western Pacific is also the source of traditional knowledge of huge value to all peoples of the Pacific. Satawal Atoll in the Caroline Islands for example, is the homeland of the legendary Mau Piailug, whose decision to share his knowledge of traditional canoe navigation has triggered an extraordinary renaissance of voyaging waka culture and ancestral links among indigenous peoples right across the Pacific,” said Mr Harawira.
“In fact, this Saturday I will join with many others in celebrating the launch of another double-hulled sailing canoe in Taipa, which owes its existence to the links forged by our own Hekenukumai Busby with Nainoa Thompson of Hawai’i, and Mau himself.
“This knowledge is a taonga gifted to us by the people of the Western Pacific, and we’d like to think that Robert Kaiwai’s appointment as New Zealand’s High Commissioner presents us with an opportunity to reciprocate that gift.
“On a personal note, Rob and I were both members of a gold-medal waka ama crew at the New Zealand Nationals some years back, and I am sure that his appointment will be well-received by all those in the world of waka ama.
“We wish Rob well in his work, in the knowledge that he will take the mana of his Paikea and Ngati Porou ancestors and his love of the sea and waka with him as he goes.”