Carter takes a break from Afghanistan

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JU­LIAN RAETHEL

If there’s no other mark Chris Carter leaves in Afghanistan there will at least be a small di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion in agri­cul­ture.

‘‘I’m very keen on gar­den­ing and Afghans love our sil­ver­beet,’’ he says.

‘‘They call it ‘New Zealand spinach’.

‘‘I’m on strict or­ders from my Afghan and Nepalese guards to bring the seeds back for plant­ing.’’

Carter, 61, has

just re­turned to Afghanistan, con­tin­u­ing his work as project man­ager of the Afghanistan Sub­na­tional Gov­er­nance Pro­gramme, part of the United Na­tions mis­sion to Kabul.

The for­mer Labour MP was able to get two weeks rest and recre­ation back in his Te Atatu home with his part­ner Peter be­fore fly­ing out again on March 21.

Carter has been work­ing in Afghanistan for two-anda-half years and says his job is very dif­fer­ent but in some parts sim­i­lar to his po­lit­i­cal work in New Zealand.

‘‘I think peo­ple have al­ways re­spected the fact I’ve worked hard, even my po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents.

‘‘My job still in­volves per­sonal re­la­tion­ships with the gov­er­nors and I’m one of the few for­eign­ers that gets to travel around Afghanistan.’’

Carter rep­re­sented the Te Atatu elec­torate from 1993 to 1996 and again be­tween 1999 and 2011.

He made the head­lines for all the wrong rea­sons in 2010 af­ter a well-pub­li­cised fall­ing out with for­mer Labour leader Phil Goff and was later ex­pelled from the party.

‘‘The hard­est part was be­ing sab­o­taged by my own team within the cau­cus,’’ Carter says. ‘‘I didn’t ex­pect my col­leagues to be my en­e­mies. I still con­sider my­self 100 per cent Labour but haven’t had any con­tact with Phil since.’’

Carter took the UN job to do some­thing he says is worth­while.

His con­tract of­fi­cially ends on De­cem­ber 31 and he says he’s no­ticed some sig­nif­i­cant changes dur­ing his time help­ing to strengthen Afghanistan’s lo­cal gov­ern­ment struc­tures.

‘‘The se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion is de­te­ri­o­rat­ing but a lot of young men and women are now com­ing out of the school sys­tem which is great.

‘‘The younger gen­er­a­tions are be­com­ing more im­pa­tient and want change.

‘‘Afghans don’t nec­es­sar­ily want our style of democ­racy but they want to have a say and se­cu­rity for their kids.

‘‘Even the smallest im­prove­ment is still an im­prove­ment.’’

Mr Carter had a close call on Oc­to­ber 18 when a sui­cide bomber at­tacked a mil­i­tary con­voy only 25 me­tres away from his com­pound.

He was wait­ing for a col­league who was run­ning five min­utes late and says that wait prob­a­bly saved his life.

‘‘It was sur­real, like a movie. I switched off,’’ he says.


Home front: Chris Carter at his home in Te Atatu.


Job perks: Chris Carter out­side the fa­mous Blue Mosque in Mazar.

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