11 Aug 2008

New Zealand Prime Minister pays tribute to Greg Urwin

7:56 pm on 11 August 2008

The New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, says the death of Greg Urwin, the former Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, will be greeted with great sadness across the Pacific.

Mr Urwin, who headed the Forum until earlier this year, died in Samoa at the weekend after suffering for months with cancer and heart problems.

Miss Clark says he was a tireless worker for the Pacific.

She praised his efforts in handling sensitive situations, such as the Fiji coup, and his achievements in implementing the Pacific Plan on regional co-operation.

The former Australian diplomat's appointment as secretary general was controversial amid an understanding that Australia and New Zealand would not hold the top position.

But Canterbury University political scientist Dr John Henderson says Mr Urwin quickly defused any tension.

"When he was appointed it was quite deliberately stated that it would just be for one three year term which showed that a number of Forum members were not happy. But he proved himself absolutely and there was no question that he should get the second term when that time came around and I think that shows how skilfully he won the co-operation and admiration of the people he worked for."