Achievers recognised at PM’s Pacific Youth Awards

  • Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga
Pacific Peoples

Five outstanding young Pacific New Zealanders have taken out this year’s Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards, which is an initiative recognising high achievement among young leaders.

“I congratulate all the winners of the Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards,” says Pacific Peoples Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga. “These hugely talented young people have the potential to contribute significantly to the future of our nation.”

“Tonight five young Pacific leaders were recognised for their contribution to their communities through their achievements in the arts, commerce, sport, leadership and education.”

The categories and winners are:

  • Leadership and Inspiration: Sione Manuolevao, New Zealand Defence Force
  • Business and Enterprise: Black Bulb Company, Auckland
  • Arts and Creativity: Thomas Fonua, Auckland
  • Learning and Teaching: Lauraina Funaki, Auckland
  • Sport and Fitness: Paxton Maligi, Auckland

“These young people make us all proud, including their families, our communities and all New Zealanders,” says Mr Lotu-liga. “These awards are a launch pad for their careers and future leadership positions.

“Ensuring that our young people thrive is crucial for the economic and cultural outlook of New Zealand.

“I congratulate and acknowledge all the winners and their families. I also thank the sponsors who have recognised the great value of this initiative.”

The awards were established in 2010 to inspire young Pacific people to reach their full potential.


The Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards recognise outstanding young achievers and provides them with a platform for further achievement and leadership.


  • Leadership and Inspiration, sponsored by Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs. $10,000 to be used for training and/or leadership development.
  • Business and Enterprise, sponsored by Westpac and the Pacific Business Trust. $10,000 cash to invest in business growth and development.
  • Arts and Creativity, Sponsored by Creative New Zealand. $10,000 to fund arts development.
  • Learning and Teaching, sponsored by Youthline and Ako Aotearoa. Up to $7,000 for learning and development.
  • Sports and Fitness, sponsored by the New Zealand Institute of Sport. $6000 to cover tuition fees and course related costs.


Leadership and Inspiration: Sione Manuolevao

Sione (24, Tongan) is a Platoon Commander with the New Zealand Defence Force. He runs the Limited Service Volunteer course where he helps at-risk youth, many of whom are Pacific. He is also a mentor for his former school, Kelston Boys High School. Sione plans to study politics and international relations at Victoria University. His long term goal is to work with youth development programmes in the Pacific.

Business and Enterprise: Black Bulb Company, Auckland

Students from Manurewa High School set up Black Bulb as part of the Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme. They created a black garlic aioli and puree which they sold at market and food shows. Their CEO Wilson Lesa (Samoan/Kiribati) won Entrepreneur of the Year. The students have been role models, encouraging Pacific students to think about a business career. They were chosen as part of Venture Up, an entrepreneurship accelerator programme for the Young Enterprise Scheme for 2015. The other students are Raniella San Sebastian, Mile Fonoia and Naotia Atiana.

Arts and Creativity: Thomas Fonua, Auckland

Thomas (22, Tongan/Samoan) has worked with the contemporary dance group Black Grace here and overseas. He is a role model and mentor to many emerging Pacific artists. He took part in an indigenous dance residency at the Banff Centre in Canada in 2010. In 2011 he returned and took part in a merit dancer programme where he choreographed, mentored and taught. He is now a faculty member and works with professional dancers of indigenous descent from all over the world. Thomas plans to create a New Zealand dance company which will focus on Pacific and indigenous contemporary dance.

Learning and Teaching: Lauraina Funaki, Auckland

Lauraina (17, Niuean) is actively involved in the wider school community, particularly as a student leader in the Kaitoro Whanau. She is a choir member and supports the charity “Shave for a Cure”. She is a long-time member of the Niuean Culture group, and performed at Polyfest while at Alfriston College. She has been a leader in the MATES programme supporting young Pacific learners. With this scholarship Lauraina plans to attend university and study law and arts. She hopes to become a lawyer and work in Pacific communities.

Sport and Fitness: Paxton Maligi, Auckland

Paxton (18, Samoan) is co-captain of the Waitakere City Rugby Netball Club Premier One side. This year she led the team to its best ever finish in the Trans-Tasman Secondary Schools’ Competition. Paxton is a former member and captain of the Auckland Samoa Under 17 team and helps coach the younger girls. She plans to study physiotherapy or sport and recreation at AUT and hopes to become an ANZ championship netball player.