What did you study and where?
I studied at the University of Auckland from 2014 to 2018. I studied a conjoint, Bachelor of Arts double majoring in Sociology and Media, Film and Television; and a Bachelor of Laws.
What is your ethnicity?
I am a Cook Islander, born in Rarotonga.
Why did you decide to study law?
Rules, institutions and law-making always fascinated me as a teenager. I had a keen interest in society, government and those who make and enforce ‘rules’. I studied law to further that interest, and to get closer to the rule-making machine.
While legal practice still interests me today, ultimately international law and public policy piqued my interest. My legal studies continue to inform the way I see New Zealand’s law and policy implemented in the global context.
Where do you currently work and what kinds of work do you do?
I started at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade – Manatū Aorere in 2020, working as a Foreign Policy Officer in its Trade Policy Engagement and Implementation Division. I implemented a number of Free Trade Agreements such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the China Free Trade Agreement.
I then took up an opportunity in the Beehive as Honourable Kelvin Davis’ political advisor. There, I advised the Minister across his four ministerial portfolios, his parliamentary responsibilities, and his work with Cabinet colleagues. It was an incredible opportunity to work with Cabinet Ministers, their staff and advisors, and a brilliant team of senior officials and community leaders to get important work done.
I’ve since returned to the Ministry working in the Office of the Deputy Secretary, Pacific and Develop Group. I support the Deputy Secretary in the work they do, and help liaise with our ministerial offices. I take a lot of pride in bringing my institutional knowledge and experience to New Zealand’s work with our Pacific partners.
What do you like about your work?
Two things really stand out to me when I think about my work in government.
First, looking at my time in the Ministry, trade policy and foreign policy is an area you’ll never encounter unless you work in it. Law school and clerkships would occasionally mention things like tariffs, the World Trade Organisation or treaties but you’d never how they worked and why they were important. In fact, you didn’t even know where to go for more information beyond a Google search. Working in the Ministry has been a real eye-opener. Every day is a crash course in trade, international law and foreign policy.
Second, I’ve interacted with so many different countries and economies in my work. Despite the travel interruptions caused by COVID-19, I’ve had so many opportunities to work with many of our international counterparts. Trade for example has historically brought distant countries and economies together, and the same can be said for today.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I am an avid hiker, regularly spending my time in the forest, mountains or coasts. I’m a car enthusiast and run a Wellington-based business detailing high-end cars.
What advice would you give to those considering studies in law?
Think much more broadly than you’re used to! Studying law not only widens your personal and professional toolkit, it also presents a number of opportunities for you to gain new experience. You should treat your law courses, law association events, competitions and even work experience as opportunities to try new things and pursue new ventures. As my dad would remind me every week, “put your name down”.
What advice would you give to those considering working in MFAT?
The Ministry really values people with broad interests, experience working with people of different backgrounds and histories, and sharp critical thinking. Law school and its many competitions and extra-curricular activities provide so many opportunities to build on these attributes. Spend those critical years in study broadening your interests, your skillsets and build a track record on delivering results with and for others. Kotahitanga and impact are of the Ministry’s four values and working with others to develop important outcomes really speaks to those principles.
Advocacy and Policy Manager