Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Helen Clark's future: options galore but retirement off the cards say Annette King and Phil Goff

Helen Clark on a New Zealand visit in 2015. PHOTO/supplied
Helen Clark on a New Zealand visit in 2015. PHOTO/supplied

Helen Clark's former colleagues say Clark will have a raft of options when her time heading the UN Development Programme in New York ends - the only option that won't be on the table is retirement.

Clark announced this week that she would leave the UNDP when her current term ended in April - drawing a curtain on eight years in the role. She has not made any comment on what her next step might be.

In an interview with Forbes Magazine during her campaign for Secretary-General of the UN last year, Clark was asked what she would do if she did not get the job. Her answer was the same as when she was asked what she would do if she lost the 2008 election: "there is no plan B. Only plan A".

Plan A did not work out - Antonio Guterres was given the job. But just as Clark ended up with the UNDP role within months of losing the 2008 election, former colleague and Labour MP Annette King said she did not think it would be long before a Plan B landed in Clark's lap again.

While it was likely Clark, 66, would take a break, she did not expect her to move back to New Zealand permanently just yet.

"She'll take a break and do some of the things she hasn't been able to do much of, like cross country ski-ing, mountaineering and the Great Walks. She'll also spend time with her 94-year-old father [George] because she is a very dedicated family person.

"But I suspect she won't have to wait long until the offers come in, and they will be international offers. She's got such a good reputation."

She said Clark would return to New Zealand permanently at some point.

"But she's still young, in international terms. She's still got years of high-level work in her."

King said having already held a top job at the UN and failed to get the Secretary-General role, it would have to be an enticing offer for Clark to remain within the UN, but other opportunities in international development or the humanitarian field could beckon.

King's views were echoed by another former colleague, Phil Goff, who served as Foreign Minister under Clark and is now Auckland Mayor. Goff said Clark would have opportunities galore.

"What I don't think will be an option, as much as she loves doing her long treks, I do not think she will be thinking of retiring. She would consider she has a good contribution to make and she still has the energy levels and commitment to want to use the skills she has built up."

Goff said if Clark was willing he expected the Government would be keen to take advantage of her international connections, perhaps in a special envoy role.

"The Government will no doubt be considering whether there is a place for her in terms of its international relations, and how they could utilise her skills, talent and contacts internationally."

He said if Clark did opt to return to New Zealand, a role in arts and culture was possible given her love of the sector.

Clark has regularly featured in international rankings of influential women such as the Forbes list and has advocated for women to get senior roles domestically and internationally.

Clark has declined to give interviews.

- NZ Herald

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