PUNA GETS COOK ISLANDS’ HIGH COMMISSIONER’S JOB IN NEW ZEALAND

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By Florence Syme-Buchanan

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (September 21, 1999 – Cook Islands News)---After many weeks, the guessing game is over.

Cook Islands Party troubleshooter Henry Puna has been given one of the choicest jobs that country has to offer, that of High Commissioner in Wellington, New Zealand.

Puna, 50, spent some weeks deciding on the offer. He told Cook Islands News yesterday it "was difficult for me initially because of business commitments in Manihiki."

Puna and his wife Akaiti invested in a pearl farm in Manihiki about two and a half years ago. It now will be managed full-time by a nephew.

"Before I accepted the position, it was important for me that being a non-political, national post, you're not there for any party, but for the country."

Because of that, Puna says it was personally important that there was consultation between the three political parties about the job being offered to him.

"I was assured that was done and they didn't have any difficulty with it and were quite supportive."

Puna says after attending the Pacific Aviation Minister's conference in Fiji, he flew to Wellington at his own expense last week to "get a feel for the place and have a look at what needs to be done."

He says there are "a lot of concerns" over the state of the official residence in Thorndon.

"It needs a lot of extra maintenance work that hasn't been done because of (government's) financial difficulties."

"Akaiti, I think she was concerned about her own position. I accept that because she's been with Air New Zealand for 27 years and her immediate concern was she wants to see out her service and basically have something to show for her years with the company."

Akaiti Puna has 12 months left to qualify for retirement. Henry Puna says it would be preferable if his wife could get a transfer to Wellington and "if that can't be arranged with Air New Zealand, other options include her remaining behind here."

GRADUATE

Henry Puna graduated with a law degree from the University of Tasmania and was admitted to the bar in the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales.

He returned and worked for Trade, Labour and Transport (TLT) before moving into private practice with Short & Tyler. He then entered into a legal partnership, forming Puna, Miller and Co. In 1989 Henry Puna was "drafted back into the public service" as head of TLT, a position he held until last November.

Dates for Puna's departure and when he formally takes on his new post have yet to be confirmed.

For additional reports from the Cook Islands News Online, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Cook Islands New Online.

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