Marlborough-raised Reuben Levermore, one of New Zealand’s youngest diplomats, starts in his new post as ambassador to Thailand next week.
The 38-year-old, in Blenheim this week to visit family, begins work at the New Zealand Embassy in Bangkok on Monday.
For the past two and a half years Levermore has been based in Manila where he served as ambassador to the Philippines, his first diplomatic role.
His promotion to the post in Bangkok, a position that also takes in Cambodia and Myanmar, was announced this month.
Southeast Asia was full of opportunities for New Zealand as developing countries recovered from the economic crisis, Levermore said.
The emerging middle classes had created a growing market for New Zealand exports, including wine.
“Countries such as the Philippines and Thailand have quite a small market for wine but they are growing.”
A big part of his role as ambassador was helping those small markets grow.
“[Southeast Asia] is a region with a lot of opportunity for New Zealand. You are seeing now, after the financial crisis, a lot of these developing countries are growing, their economies are growing at rapid rates and the middle classes are growing, so there is a lot of opportunity for our exporters.”
Another key aspect of Levermore’s job was to get out and about and further promote New Zealand’s positive image.
“To get the sort of recognition and opportunities that New Zealanders expect, it means pushing hard because we are competing with all the other countries in the world for that attention.”
Reflecting on his term as ambassador to Philippines, Levermore said one of the biggest achievements had been the embassy’s response to Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines late last year.
As well as checking on New Zealanders in the country, his team co-ordinated a relief response. It was all about the team working together, he said.
“Those things require a lot of co-ordination at really short notice and so you’ve got to move fast, think quickly and think practically and the team did a great job.
“It was quite a proud moment to be involved with that.”
When Levermore was named ambassador to the Philippines, he was New Zealand’s youngest ambassador. While he didn’t expect to rise up the ranks he said he could not imagine doing any other job.
“It’s a privilege . . . You can meet anyone in the country from the president down and that’s your opportunity to represent New Zealand.
“You get to see the best and the worst, from all of the positive stuff, like trade promotion, to disaster relief. It’s quite an honour and I certainly wouldn’t have traded it for anything.”
The former St Mary’s School pupil said his career choice might have been influenced by the fact both his parents were immigrants – his mother, who lives in Blenheim, is Dutch, and his father is English.
“I don’t know what it was . . . but something interested me. It’s quite competitive to get into the foreign service and I didn’t really have any expectation, it just worked out that way.”
– The Marlborough Express