A new special envoy role will help Australia strengthen its already strong bond with the Pacific, the federal government says.

Ewen McDonald, a senior foreign affairs department official, will take on the inaugural role of Special Envoy for the Pacific and Regional Affairs.

He has also been appointed the new High Commissioner to Fiji.

McDonald has headed the Office of the Pacific for the past four years and he previously served overseas as Australia’s High Commissioner to New Zealand.

“I have great respect for the collective leadership of our region and the institutions that support it,” he said in a statement on Sunday.

“As a member of regional institutions, including the Pacific Island Forum, I look forward to actively supporting the region’s priorities in the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.”

The new special envoy role reflected the federal government’s commitment to the region, Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong and International Development Minister Pat Conroy said in a joint statement.

“It will enhance Australia’s ability to respond to collective challenges and strengthen our engagement with regional organisations as a member of the Pacific Islands Forum,” they said.

The government thanked outgoing High Commissioner John Feakes and the staff of the Australian High Commission in Suva for their contribution and commitment.