Frank Wong, an experienced international negotiator for the Ministry of External Relations and Trade, has died in Wellington aged 41.
Born in Gisborne, Frank attended Gisborne Boys’ High School, and graduated LLB(Hons) from Auckland University in 1973.
He joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1974, and began in the ministry’s Legal Division. In 1975 he attended the Australian Foreign Service Training course in Canberra. On his return to Wellington, he worked first in the Africa Middle East and Commonwealth Division, and then in United Nations Division. In 1977 he rejoined Legal Division briefly, before being posted the same year as Third Secretary to the New Zealand High Commission in Ottawa.
In 1980 Frank was appointed as Second Secretary, later First Secretary, to the New Zealand High Commission in London. In 1983 he returned to be Assistant Director of Legal Division. In 1986 he was appointed First Secretary, later Counsellor, to the New Zealand Embassy in Brussels, where he worked on trade access issues. He returned to New Zealand in 1988 to the position of Director, Legal Division.
Frank represented New Zealand in many conferences, on issues ranging right across New Zealand’s external relations interests. These included the 1976 Commonwealth Senior Officials meeting, the Law of the Sea Conference from 1976-83, the International Whaling Commission during 1978-82, CER talks with Australia in 1983-85, the Tokelau Fono in 1984-85, New Zealand/EC dairy talks in 1986-87, regional fisheries negotiations from 1985 to 1989, and at sessions of the UN General Assembly from 1976 onwards.
Perhaps the most significant task in which he was engaged was the long series of Antarctic Treaty meetings, leading ultimately to the conclusion of the environment protocol.
At his memorial service in early April Richard Nottage, Secretary of External Relations and Trade, said it was fitting that Frank was the signatory, on behalf of the Government of New Zealand of this important Treaty document.
“It sets the framework for the conservation and protection of the Antarctic for years to come. It was a matter of intense political scrutiny both in New Zealand and throughout the world. It is widely recognised, not only in New Zealand but in many other countries that no one contributed more, and more skillfully to the process of negotiation of that document than Frank Wong.
“This is recognised in the tributes that have been made to Frank in recent months by distinguished foreign colleagues. These tributes have come from diplomatic colleagues in the United States, in London, in France and in China.”
As an External Relations officer, Frank was known for policy advice of the highest quality and for first-rate judgment. Within Legal Division, he maintained an admirable esprit de corps and motivated his younger legal colleagues exceptionally well.
Frank is survived by his wife Felicity and daughter Emma.
This obituary was first published in LawTalk 369, 27 April 1992, page 2.