The life of a Diplomatic driver

Outgoing Driver to the High Commissioner, David Mos shares some thoughts about his time as a Diplomatic driver.

My journey with the Australian High Commission started with a few less than elegant practice launches in the Diplomatic car, followed by a guided visit to the High Commissioner’s residence. I returned to the Chancery to take the High Commissioner to a lunch he was attending and at that moment my driver training was complete – I was now on my own.

Later that day, I got lost on the way to the High Commissioner’s residence.  It’s a tricky route even by Wellington’s standards, so I’m sure every driver who has ever been there must have done it at least once.  While I can’t remember the then-High Commissioner’s exact words that evening, his message was pretty clear and has stayed with me ever since: ‘learn quickly David – I won’t tolerate the same mistake twice’.

Flagpole embedded example

The following day was very nearly my last in this role – at least it felt that way to me. I had my first evening event and at the end of the night, the then-High Commissioner and his wife got into the car but it didn’t start. “What do you mean the car won’t start?” came the voice from the back seat…

In November 2010 I got my first sense of the true camaraderie within the High Commission when the Pike River mine exploded. I saw first-hand that evening just how a High Commissioner works, liaising with both the New Zealand and Australian Governments once it became apparent two Australians were involved.

It was incredibly moving to attend the memorial service in memory of the miners, and I will never forget my first experience of driving within a motorcade: through the main streets of Greymouth of all places.

Christchurch 2011 was definitely the hardest event I have had to deal with here. I was standing in the doorway to a colleague’s office when the building started to sway. It was nothing special; but enough to notice once the blinds began rattling away as they do in Wellington’s frequent earthquakes. When we all went to check on Geonet, we were shocked to see the South Island seismometers were all lit up like Christmas trees. The TV coverage gave us an insight into the fact this one was a really bad one and the High Commission again swung into action.

I was in Christchurch 28 hours after the quake, driving the van full of supplies and water. Being the driver, I had access into the red zone so the High Commissioner could meet the Mayor, senior political figures and the Police as required.

I can’t describe to you exactly what I saw while I was in there: the collapsed facades, squashed vehicles, the liquefaction, the devastation and, at that time, the desolation. I accompanied the High Commissioner at one stage into the (now former) Police Headquarters and it was the strangest thing I’ve probably ever experienced. The building was 13 stories tall, the first 3 levels were in use because there was nowhere else to go, but everything above that was condemned. No one batted an eyelid as to how illogical it was.

The shaking was a constant too, not to mention having to traverse once smooth streets and dodge manholes that had risen a foot out of the ground. That experience certainly bought everyone at the High Commission together, either on the ground in Christchurch or back in Wellington playing our part in the days after the event.

These two events were the most pivotal for me personally but were by no means the only important ones over the years. Events such as the Rugby World Cup, the Pacific Islands Forum in 2011 in Auckland and 2012 in the Cook Islands as well as the Cricket World Cup were hard work, but rewarding.

I’ve enjoyed the opportunity over the years to drive the Australian Governor-General’s spouse, the Australian and New Zealand Prime Ministers’ spouses, countless Ministers, all three DFAT Secretaries since 2010 and the three most recent Chiefs of the Defence Force.

As a New Zealander, Bledisloe Cup results became increasingly glossed over in conversation as the years have passed. Over my employment the Trans-Tasman rugby score reads All Blacks: 17, Australia: 3, Draw: 2. In terms of offering balance, the cricket reads New Zealand: 6: Australia: 10 Draw: 1.

When I started out I thought I might be in the job for a couple of years. As it turned out, I’ll finish up 9 days short of spending a quarter of my life employed here – and what a journey it has been.

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