If you were Icelandic and you happened to have a big night out and lose your passport in New Zealand, it’s very likely that you would be calling on Geiri Petursson to help.
He is Iceland’s diplomatic outpost in Aotearoa. He just happens to live in Atawhai.
“I’m not really sure how it happened,” he says.
Since 2003 he has been Iceland’s honorary consul which gives him broad diplomatic powers, including issuing passports.
Iceland does not have an embassy in New Zealand or Australia so Geiri, who is a skipper of fishing vessels, reports to the embassy in China.
“But not everyone wants to go to China to get a passport,” he says.
Geiri has lived in New Zealand for 20 years and would often port in Nelson while he was working aboard large ships.
“I just loved the place.”
A lot of his job is liaising with the 60-odd Icelandic families that live in New Zealand and speaking with businesses that want information about travelling to the Nordic country.
“Increasingly, it’s really noticeable that in the last five years there are more Kiwis going to Iceland for tourism. It’s become the hot spot to go to in Europe. Kiwis are a big part of it now. People a lot more aware of it now.”
It has a population of about 350,000 people in an area 100,000km2 – making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe.
He says another little-known fact is that Iceland has an old bi-lateral agreement with New Zealand which supersedes European Union law. It means that a New Zealander can travel to the EU for three months and then can go to Iceland for a further three months.
“90 percent of Kiwis who are going to Iceland are for nature tourism.”
These days, Geiri heads back to Iceland every year to see family and his grandchildren. But he is always available.
“I’m on call, always.”