“Our Search for a new Pacific Vision – Le Sailiga o le Tofa Mamao”, Minister’s Address at the Pacific Aotearoa Summit, Eden Park, Auckland

  • Hon Aupito William Sio
Pacific Peoples


Talofa lava, Kia Orana tatou katoatoa, malo e lelei, fakalofalahi atu, Malo ni, Taloha ni, Ni Sa bula vinaka, Warm Pacific greetings to one and all.

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

I want to acknowledge and point out some of our special guests who are present.

  • Rev Lucky Slade, & Members of the religious fraternity present
  • Minister of Finance, the Hon. Grant Robertson and my parliamentary colleagues;
  • Auckland Councillors and Local Board Chairs;
  • Members of the Diplomatic Corp from the Pacific region;
  • Chief Executives of Government agencies present and your teams;
  • Strategic partners Pacific Business Trust, Pasifika Education Centre, Pacific Media Network, and Pasifika Futures
  • I acknowledge all of our beautiful and inspirational guest speakers.
  • I especially want to thank our Keynote Speaker Monica Galetti, for coming all the way from the UK to join us this morning and I so much look forward to hearing your story.
  • Our Pacific elders, Community leaders, Traditional leaders, our Chiefs from the different motu

The Foundations for Today’s Talanoa

In our search for a new vision, we seek inspiration through prayer, songs and through our ceremonies.

Our young people have conducted a welcoming ceremony in the fusion contemporary style using all of our Pacific languages, including Maori, in songs and dance. They do so with pride, confidence and heart, and I thank them.

In my own search for inspiration I recall the following saying from my elders.

“Ole aso ma le filiga, ole aso ma le mata’igatila”.

The saying comes from the task of canoe building. The big double-hulled canoe was used for long journeys in the vast Pacific Ocean. The task of building a double-hulled canoe requires lots and lots of sinnet rope made from a particular coconut. There is a long process in the weaving of the dried husk of the coconut into sinnet ropes. Then there was the task of tying the planks together, and then checking and double checking for errors and mistakes before the journey.

On this occasion, I use this saying, ‘Ole aso ma le filiga, ole aso male mata’igatila’, to say that weighty decisions, especially when it involves us embarking on a long journey, where people are counting on us, should not be made in haste, but only upon mature reflection and discussion in search of inspiration, in search of new ideas.

To capture a vision, where the people are kept together and will not perish, we must seek inspiration, even revelation from above.

Collectively this is our task today. To assess where we have come from, how we have fared as a community, where we are today, and where do we want to be in 10 year’s time, 20 years, 30 years, even 50 years from today.

Past Reflections & My Story

I am immensely proud of the privilege of being the Minister for Pacific Peoples and having the opportunity of working alongside many of you present today.

I am the son of Samoan parents who arrived as part of the wave of Pacific migration in the 1960s. We were invited to come to New Zealand to fill the jobs of the booming manufacturing industry of that time.

My father and his older brother had been to NZ earlier.  They lived with William Betham and his family in Avondale. William Betham and my father were best friends in Samoa from Marist Brothers. They were boxers and got their Pe’a together. William’s family moved to NZ in the late 1950s. I am William Betham’s namesake.

Both my father and William Betham wanted me to be a boxer. All my mother could see from that idea was brain damage to her eldest son. And that was the end of that.

Upon our arrival in 1969, my father transformed himself from a Matai and a taro-planter (as described in his passport) into a New Zealand labourer or factory worker by day, cleaner by night, a security guard in the weekends, and then after the closure of factories in the 1980s, became a taxi driver and then an owner-driver with South Auckland Taxi Association.

Pacific people thrived during that period, through the many job opportunities and sheer hard work. Day shifts, night shifts and twilight shifts, six days a week with lots of overtime hours.

Through those factory jobs, they purchased homes and supported large families, often 3 or more generations under one roof.

Church groups and trade unions came to our defence during the horrible Dawn Raid period. But it was our young people in the Pacific Panthers, and our women from Pasifica Inc that had the most impact in those dark hours.

Many of our families are often the first to be hit hardest during an economic crisis, and the last to recover when the economy improved.

Nonetheless we have persevered. We strive to make Aotearoa our home while still performing the normal duties of supporting our family faalavelave, giving to families back in the islands, and donating to church projects.

The original dream for many Pacific peoples was always to return home to the islands. Le Afioga ia Maualaivao Albert Wendt wrote about that in his book, the “Sons for the Return Home”.

I’m not sure that the elders envisioned that we would fall in love with the people and the lands of Aotearoa, and stay. 

We now have more Cook Islanders, more Niuean, more Tokelauans who live in New Zealand than those who live back in the islands. Similar trends are showing for Samoa, Tonga and others too.

More than 62% of our Pacific population are born in Aotearoa. This is their home, and the only home they know.  Many have bicultural or multicultural parentage and whakapapa to Maori. 

This emerging demographics is important as it has reawaken the need to work collaboratively with Maori based on the Tuakana-Tuateina relationships.

This is a sacred relationship and requires us to stand in support of Maori and their Treaty relationship with the Crown.

Pacific Economy 

The release of the report on the Pacific Economy by Minister Robertson is a fantastic milestone in our journey since the first arrivals in Aotearoa.  

Thank you Minister, to you and to your officials at Treasury. I especially want to single out Su’a Kevin Thomsen for all your work and those who have supported your efforts including Pacific Business Trust, my Ministry, MBIE and others. 

The Pacific Economy report lays a good strong foundation that we can build upon for generations to come. It is the start of a conversation to better understand Pacific people’s contribution to NZ’s economy, and how we define success, prosperity and well-being.

It will give confidence to our young people that Pacific people do punch well above their weight despite the burdens of inequalities that exist. It will also help eliminate the negative stereotypical attitudes towards Pacific peoples from other quarters.

Imagine what more we can accomplish, if we eliminated the inequalities, the barriers and disparities our communities face in the areas of housing, health, education and employment and income levels.

Pacific Aotearoa Project

When we got into Government, I not only was keen for Treasury to carry out its scoping exercise of the Pacific economy, I was also keen to get the Ministry for Pacific Peoples to engage with our communities about where we’ve come from, and where we want to head in the future.

Today is the result of a Talanoa process during which we heard from more than 2,500 Pacific peoples from around Aotearoa.

I am very pleased today to launch the Ministry’s Reflections Report which captures the feedback of the Talanoa process and the New Vision Statement.

Lalanga Fou Report 

I’ll begin first with the Lalanga Fou report and the feedback we captured so far from our Talanoa. It describes the weaving of a new Vision and navigates the journey ahead for Pacific communities.

It is not intended to present all the answers.

Instead, I hope it will spark debate and the development of policies and programmes that respond to the challenges we face.  

There were many issues raised by people in our Talanoa. They’ve been grouped into four key areas that require action.

  • Thriving Pacific languages, cultures and identities
  • Prosperous Pacific communities
  • Resilient and healthy Pacific peoples, and
  • Confident, thriving and resilient Pacific young people.  

Thriving Pacific languages, cultures and identities 

We heard loud and clear that Pacific people want their diverse languages and cultures to be valued and recognised as an asset for Aotearoa.

We were told to halt the decline of Pacific languages being spoken, and ensure they are celebrated not just in language weeks, but in everyday life. 

Pacific languages must be passed down through generations as a treasure, or they will be doomed as a relic. 

This is essential to making sure our Pacific children born in Aotearoa maintain a sense of Pacific identity and belonging.  

We also heard that Pacific communities valued their faith and the role of the church as a source of well-being in cultural, social and economic terms. 

Prosperous Pacific communities 

The second goal area is about prosperity. 

We want to improve the participation of Pacific people in the labour market and business. We want to achieve economic security and independence.

We want our people employed in high valued jobs, critical to New Zealand’s future economic success.  

We also want to ensure the enormous Pacific voluntary contribution, highlighted in the Pasifika Economy report, is not just recognised but celebrated.

And, for new and future waves of migration, we want to see better pathways to residence for workers on repeated temporary work visas, and better care and settlement support for migrants and their families. 

Resilient and healthy Pacific peoples

The third goal area is about health and wellbeing. 

There is a strong desire to have more preventative and primary health care services to reduce hospital admissions and acute care.

Put another way, Pacific people want the ambulance at the top of the cliff, especially when it comes to deadly diseases like rhemautic fever and obesity. 

To achieve this, Pacific culture and values must play a greater role in informing the design and delivery of health services.

We need more by Pacific people, for Pacific people. We want to be the authors of our own health solutions, including the design and implementation of strategies. 

Like all New Zealanders, Pacific people also want to see more support for mental health and their children having the best start in life.

The regions also wanted support in tackling family violence and sexual abuse. 

Confident, thriving and resilient Pacific young people 

The final priority area looks forward to the leaders of tomorrow by focusing on the youth of today.

Our Pacific youth will play a key role in our future economic success as a country.

With most Pacific youth now born in New Zealand, there’s a strong desire to ensure they grow up confident in their identities.

They wanted strong role models, in areas other than sports & music. They want role models in business, leadership, community, entrepreneurship, innovators, creators, and in STEMs.

Education is also a strong theme, along with the desire to have better career pathways into the high value jobs of tomorrow.

It is heartening that Pacific youth involved in the Talanoa sessions expressed feelings of pride, hope, confidence and ambition.

They were solutions-focused on the challenges they faced, particularly around ‘walking in two worlds.’ 

Pacific Vision Statement

Over the next two years the Government will work closely with Pacific communities to co-design solutions to some of the challenges Pacific people face in health, housing, education, employment and preserving languages, cultures and identities.

Success will be determined by the strength of community engagement in the development and implementation of initiatives to meet these challenges.

It will also ensure we support Pacific communities to be successful in shaping the future of Aotearoa.

Pacific people will play a key role in shaping the future of our communities and our economy.

We are fast becoming mainstream.

Our Pacific values aligns well with the focus of the Government to shape New Zealand into becoming a more caring and kinder society, and the best place to raise a family.

I believe greater input from Pacific peoples providing a uniquely Pacific perspective is vital in the shaping of the new Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Today, we’ll hear also from a few of our business leaders, innovators, creators and people and organisations I call our modern day navigators and explorers.

They will all have inspirational stories of life journeys, of challenges they’ve faced, of dealing with failures & set-backs, and their successes.

With all that in mind, I am pleased to also launch a new Vision Statement:

Pacific values are our anchor, with each generation weaving the foundations for the next to stand on. Pacific communities are leading innovations within Aotearoa, the Pacific region and the world. We are confident in our endeavours, we are thriving, resilient and prosperous. We are Pacific Aotearoa.

To fully realise this Vision, we need to support change and innovation from within our communities.  We need to rethink how government and communities work together in partnership.  Pacific people must be at the heart of thinking and decision-making.

Next steps

So where to from here?

The Ministry has already begun work with government agencies, businesses, NGOs and community groups to identify how we can work together to best support and achieve our goals.

We need your input into that conversation. To double check for errors or weaknesses. Ole aso ma le filiga, ole aso ma le mata’igatila.

What else must we do?

Pacific Aotearoa is about empowering Pacific communities to be at the decision-making table, driving and leading innovative solutions.

This Summit is an opportunity to share, understand and plan so our aspirations can be realised.

Achieving this will require new approaches.

None of us have all the answers. This is not about us fighting amongst ourselves for the pittance of resources. We have to stand together & united.

What we do know is that Pacific values must inform how things are done, and we must recognise Pacific communities as the owners of Pacific wellbeing and culture.

We know that a prosperous journey can only be realised with the blessing and collective support of our community.

I encourage you all to be part of our shared vision for Pacific Aotearoa.

The challenge I leave with you for today is that this Vision and the work that sits underneath it must inspire us for years to come.

It must stretch and challenge all of our communities to realise their full potential.

It must unite us as a secure and confident nation accepting of our diversity.

And most of all, just like the earlier arrivals who left a legacy from which we are all the beneficiaries of, we too must leave a legacy for the next generation.

Our legacy must be that we ensure no-one is left behind.

Thank you. Fa’afetai. Ia soifua.