The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP

Media Release

4 October 2007

Diplomatic Appointment - Consul-General in Noumea

Ms Anita Butler is to be Australia’s new Consul-General in Noumea, with accreditation covering New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna. Ms Butler will replace Jane Urquhart who has been Consul-General since December 2004 and is expected to take up her appointment in November 2007.

Bilateral ties between Australia and New Caledonia have broadened and strengthened in recent years, marked by an increasing number of exchange visits particularly after the 1998 Noumea Accord enabled New Caledonia to develop its engagement with the Pacific. The former Minister for Trade, Mr Vaile, visited New Caledonia in 2002 when he signed the Australia-New Caledonia Trade and Economic Relations Arrangement. I visited New Caledonia in 2004 and this was followed in 2005 by a visit to Australia by then New Caledonian Minister for the Economy, Didier Leroux, to discuss cooperation in the areas of trade, telecommunications and taxation. In 2006, a New Caledonian Congress delegation visited Australia at the invitation of the Australian Parliament. Bilateral officials trade talks were held in Canberra in 2002 and Noumea in 2005, with a new round scheduled for Canberra in early 2008.

New Caledonia is a significant export market for Australia with exports last year totalling $277 million. Major developments in the mining and processing of New Caledonia's world-class nickel deposits mean that opportunities for greater bilateral trade and investment over the next decade are strong. Australia works closely with the French authorities and armed forces in New Caledonia in providing regional natural disaster relief and in military exercises, together with regional partners. Strong links also exist through business, agriculture, tourism and sport. Many New Caledonians seek education in Australia, or benefit from scholarships administered through the Consulate-General in Noumea for young people in New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna. Australia’s links with French Polynesia are also growing.

Australia welcomes the opportunities, created by New Caledonia’s ongoing implementation of the Noumea Accord and by the special constitutional status granted by France to French Polynesia in February 2004, for both entities to intensify their dealings with their Pacific neighbours. New Caledonia participates as an associate member of the Pacific Islands Forum. Noumea hosts the headquarters of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, the oldest regional organisation which brings together 22 states and territories, provides technical assistance to all Pacific island countries, and contributes to sustainable economic development within the region.

Ms Butler is a career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and is currently Director, Pacific Bilateral Section. Overseas, Ms Butler has served as Deputy Head of Mission in Honiara (2002-05) and Second Secretary in Hanoi (1999‑2002). In Canberra, Ms Butler was Director, Solomon Islands Section (2005‑07) and has held positions in the South and South East Asia, and International Organisations and Legal Divisions.

Ms Butler holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from the University of Adelaide and a Masters of Arts (Foreign Affairs and Trade) from Monash University. She speaks French, Vietnamese and Solomon Islands Pijin.

Media Inquiries: Mr Downer's office 02 6277 7500 - Departmental Media Liaison 02 6261 1555

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