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Sunday, November 15

Death of NZ High Commissioner to Cook Islands

New Zealand's High Commissioner to the Cook Islands, Te Rongotoa (Tia) Barrett, died in Middlemore Hospital this morning after a short illness, Foreign Minister Murray McCully said today.

Mr Barrett, 62, had been flown to Auckland on a medical evacuation flight last week.

"On behalf of the government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, I would like to extend deepest sympathy to Tia's wife Theresa, and his children Nick and Caroline," Mr McCully said.

"Tia was a respected diplomat, particularly in the Pacific where he served a number of postings. He was also a close and caring friend of colleagues at the Ministry."

Mr Barrett joined the Foreign Ministry in 1973. He was High Commissioner to Solomon Islands (1992-1995), Fiji (1998-2001) and to the Cook Islands from January this year, and was also posted to Tonga, New Caledonia, and France.

Mr Barrett was previously Chief of Protocol at the Ministry, and director of its Maori Policy Unit. He was a strong advocate for a Maori perspective in New Zealand's foreign policy.

He served as Official Secretary to Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright, and was Director of the Treaty of Waitangi Information Programme in 2003-2004.

Mr McCully said this was a particularly difficult time for staff at the High Commission in Rarotonga, after the death last year of former High Commissioner Brian Donnelly.

Further details about Mr Barrett's tangi will be released in the coming days.