The former head of Oxfam New Zealand , Barry Coates, says New Zealand should tread carefully with a newly created high level diplomatic role for the region.
The country's Foreign Minister Murray McCully has offered the ambassador level position focusing on fisheries to a senior opposition MP and former Maori Fisheries Commission chair, Shane Jones.
Mr Coates says it is unclear what role Mr Jones can play given the number of existing initiatives to conserve fish stocks and increase returns for countries in the region.
He says Pacific Island countries have choices in development partners now and New Zealand needs to be careful about the way it builds relationships with its neighbours.
"We've got to show respect and although Shane Jones obviously has good qualifications in fisheries, I think it would be useful to make sure our diplomatic initiatives are well-connected up through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade which presumably should be leading on these things rather than (them) being a free flowing political initiative."
The former head of Oxfam New Zealand Barry Coates