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Fresh slate of challenges for ex-high commissioner

By Marie Sherry

Former British high commissioner Russell Marshall found himself doing things he’d never dared dream of during his three year term in England but he is looking forward to the new challenges he now faces back home in New Zealand.

Russell returned to Wellington three months ago to take up his new position of tertiary education commissioner. He says his three years spent as high commissioner to the United Kingdom and Nigeria, and ambassador to Ireland, was a busy and interesting time.

“There was the build up to the Iraq war, the Queen had her 50th anniversary of her coronation, the Queen Mother died and I was able to attend a royal funeral.”

Russell enjoyed taking part in British traditions, including the Edinburgh Tattoo, and he also spent plenty of time talking with politicians and meeting people in the media.

“Going to the enthronement of the Archbishop of Canterbury was something I never thought I would do. For anybody with a Methodist upbringing it was great,” Russell says. He also attended Westminster Abbey on several occasions and helped with preparations for Anzac Day.

“There were lots of interesting people. I met Dame Vera Lynn, who was a well-known figure during the Second World War. The highlights were the people I met.

“It was a privilege to sit down with British officials and politicians. There’s a lot of affection and high regard for New Zealand so being a representative of that was very satisfying.”

However, Russell is happy to be home near his family and is now heavily involved with New Zealand’s tertiary education sector.

“I helped set up the tertiary education commission several years ago and now I’m back working with it. We’re now putting it all in together and trying to get one streamlined system for everyone.”

His three-year term as tertiary education commissioner will see Russell work on funding issues for all tertiary institutions, including universities, polytechnics, colleges of education, industry training, wananga and private training providers.

Russell is a former minister in the Methodist Church of New Zealand.