Speech at the Waikato Nesian Festival, Claudelands Park, Hamilton

E nga mana, e nga iwi, e nga reo, e nga hau e wha, tena koutou katoa.

Lele ua iila le lagi, ua lanu tioata le sami, aua le paia le popo ma le mamalu ua o’o o Samoa ma le Pasefika ua aofaga potopoto.

Greetings and acknowledgements to you all Waikato. It feels great to be back in your region and to celebrate with you our thriving Pacific languages, cultures and identities.

Can I acknowledge Leaupepe Rachel Karalus and the team at K’aute Pasifika and everyone behind the scenes for organizing this fantastic Nesian Festival.

With me this morning is MP Jamie Strange and your local Hamilton City Councillors. Thank you guys for your wonderful support for the Waikato Nesian Festival.

Last year when I was here, I spoke to you about my intentions as Minister for Pacific Peoples and the need for us as a community to assess where we have come from, where we are, and what kind of future we see for ourselves in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

I am happy to report that since then, I and the Ministry for Pacific Peoples have engaged with over 2,500 Pacific peoples from across Aotearoa New Zealand and we have been laying the foundations for a programme of work that will support the thriving Pacific community in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Upon this foundation we are building a partnership between me, as the Minister for Pacific Peoples; the team of dedicated, passionate and talented staff we have working for us around the country; and you, the community.

What this partnership represents is a shared understanding of the power we all hold to change people’s lives by working together with them, and their families.

Last year, we launched the Lalanga Fou report at our Pacific Aotearoa summit. That report highlighted that Pacific identity, language and culture, economic development and income, education, health and wellness as key areas to realising their full potential.

We have taken this work and started developing a range of initiatives focused on the wellbeing of Pacific people, their families and their communities.

Since then, every discussion we have had about how to allocate public resources to support our people, every meeting, every debate, your aspirations as captured in the Pacific Aotearoa Lalanga Fou report has been at the centre of those discussions.

We also launched The New Zealand Pacific Economy report that was prepared by Treasury. This report showed that Pacific peoples contribute $8 Billion to New Zealand’s economy, and that’s despite the challenges of inequality and barriers Pacific people’s face in the areas of housing, health, education and employment.

Since the release of that report, I continue to advocate – imagine the kind of contribution Pacific peoples can make if we eliminated the barriers and inequalities they face.  The challenge of eliminating inequities in our society requires all of us to play our part.  We, collectively must be ambitious for the general wellbeing of our communities.

At the end of this month, when we announce our first ever Wellbeing Budget, we will be able to tell you more about what you have helped create.

Our Wellbeing Budget is about measuring things differently - not just in economic terms, but by the good it creates in people’s lives and tackling New Zealand’s long-term challenges.

GDP measures might include the number of people in the workforce; how many businesses are operating in your community; how much people earn, and how much they spend and on what goods they buy. But GDP does not measure the joy each of you feel from our event today. It does not measure the excitement and confidence your children experience from dancing and singing as Pacific peoples of Aotearoa. It doesn’t measure the quality of work and effort by loving volunteers who give freely of their time and energy this fantastic event takes place for the whole community.

Our work together needs to achieve the same. It needs to make our lives – and the lives of our people - better, more fulfilling and more prosperous.

How we do this will become clearer in a month’s time, but what I can tell you today is that because of the work we all put into creating Pacific Aotearoa - Lalanga Fou, this government is committed to ensuring more Pacific people have the opportunity to connect to their language, culture and identity; and that more people can take on meaningful work, have access to affordable healthcare, and enjoy a quality education.

Communities thrive when there is space for people to explore their Pacific identity in a way that is meaningful to them, unconstrained by the expectations or definitions of others.

Supporting more people to learn their Pacific language is one way we can make that happen.

Because the languages we use say something about not just who we are, but where we are. They speak to our sense of belonging, our identity and our understanding of how we came to be here.

But Pacific languages in New Zealand are struggling. Without action we risk losing an incredible repository of wisdom and culture, and a sense of belonging for our Pacific people.

This year is a momentous occasion for celebrating Pacific Language Weeks. 2019 has been established by the United Nations as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. The UN recognises that languages is “not only a tool for communication, education, social integration and development, but also as repository for each person’s unique identity, cultural history, traditions and memory.”

We in New Zealand have known the value of our languages for a very long time, and the UN’s recognition of Indigenous Languages is perfect timing for the work we’re doing in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

In just over two weeks from now we will start our celebrations for Samoa Language Week, which runs from, Sunday 26 May - Saturday 1 June.

One of the most important ways we protect, nurture and grow our languages is by coming together, like we will throughout that week, to tell our stories, share our cultures and celebrate our traditions for the benefit of future generations.

Over the course of our Pacific language weeks this year, I will be encouraging all those who do not speak a Pacific language to take a small amount of time to learn.

It might only be a few simple words, like Talofa lava, or Fa’afetai lava. But maybe, just maybe, for some, this will be the spark that starts a lifelong journey of language exploration and learning that they can pass from generation to generation.

I will continue to get around to visit and engage with our communities in the regions as we take the next steps in our journey to be confident in our endeavours, thriving, resilient and being a prosperous Pacific- Aotearoa.

Our approach to this is to support more local business to create opportunities for Pacific communities; to support people to learn their language; and to walk alongside young people as they embark on exciting new work and learning opportunities.

But New Zealand’s story isn’t written by people in power. It is written by the people we listen to and support. People like you.  Kia Kaha everyone. Thank you. Soifua.