Kiwi diplo­mat shares ups and downs


Ed McIsaac was stand­ing on the bal­cony of the New Zealand Em­bassy in Ankara, Turkey at 4.30am when the sonic boom from an F16 rebel jet sent him fly­ing.

It was all part of the job for the New Zealand diplo­mat, who was in Turkey as a coup broke out.

‘‘I was look­ing for a safe way to drive my car home and an F16 flew over and broke the sound bar­rier. The sonic boom knocked me over and smashed a win­dow in the em­bassy,’’ McIsaac says.

Ten years be­fore then, McIsaac was a com­mer­cial lawyer at firm Minter El­li­son Rudd Watts in Auck­land cen­tral but says it wouldn’t have kept him go­ing.

‘‘It was a great place to cut your teeth but I’d al­ways been in­ter­ested in for­eign af­fairs and cu­ri­ous about the world.’’

So, in 2006, McIsaac left the firm and ap­plied for a role at the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs and Trade, but didn’t get an in­ter­view.

‘‘It was a les­son for me, you’ve got to work hard to get what you want and you don’t al­ways get it the first time.’’

After a ‘‘re­ward­ing’’ stint with the Min­istry of So­cial De­vel­op­ment, McIsaac landed a job with MFAT in 2009. He spent three years do­ing United Na­tions en­vi­ron­men­tal ne­go­ti­a­tion.

From there, McIsaac en­tered MFAT’s trade di­vi­sion, where he worked on the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship, be­fore be­ing posted to South Africa in 2013.

He was re­spon­si­ble for trade and eco­nomic re­la­tions with South Africa, as well as bilateral re­la­tions



‘‘I have a very pos­i­tive view of South Africa, de­spite its chal­lenges, and I think in New Zealand we don’t al­ways get that.’’

He was also there when Nel­son with An­gola, Mau­ri­tius and Man­dela died.

‘‘It was very sad but also a his­toric mo­ment,’’ McIsaac says.

In 2015, he moved to Turkey where he is now New Zealand’s deputy am­bas­sador.

One of his first as­sign­ments was as­sist­ing with cen­ten­nial com­mem­o­ra­tions of the Gal­lipoli Land­ings. He was in Ankara when ter­ror­ism struck in mid2015 and heard and felt two ter­ror­ist at­tacks close to the em­bassy.

He was there for an at­tempted coup in July 2016, as tanks roamed the streets and F16s and he­li­copter gun­ships flew around. Another sig­nif­i­cant mo­ment for McIsaac was dis­cov­er­ing a hu­man rights ad­vo­cate and lawyer, Tahir Elci, had been shot dead at a peace rally, less than two days after McIsaac met him.

‘‘It was quite hard to re­main com­posed … it re­ally brought home to me the tragedy of some of what’s hap­pen­ing in Turkey, with good peo­ple lost every day.’’

But for every neg­a­tive, there’s a pos­i­tive. McIsaac’s daugh­ter Zara was born in Ankara about 16 months ago, so Turkey will al­ways be special for him and his wife, Su­sanna, who he met through for­eign af­fairs.

While it’s hard be­ing away from fam­ily net­works, he al­ways re­turns to the Shore where he grew up, and attended Ros­mini.

‘‘One thing we miss is not be­ing close to the beach. Ankara is about four hours away and, as a New Zealan­der … be­ing away from the ocean is tough,’’ he says. ‘‘One of the lucky things about the Shore is the schools are of a high qual­ity. You can go any­where with the ed­u­ca­tion you get on the Shore.’’


Ed McIsaac, centre, lays a wreath at the com­mem­o­ra­tive ser­vice at Chunuk Bair in Au­gust 2017. The site was seized by New Zealand troops in Au­gust 1915 and claimed back by Ot­toman forces two days later.

Ed McIsaac

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