Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Awards a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ for Pasifika Businesses

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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Anauli Karima Fai'ai | Reporter/Director

Pasifika entrepreneurs have not had much to smile about over the last two years, but this year’s Pacific Business Trust (PBT) Awards are a sign of better times ahead.

Of the 400 nominations received, the largest response PBT has had, 39 nominations were selected as finalists across 10 categories. The winners were announced at the biennial awards night last Friday.

Filipo Saua, owner of Zenith Fitness and Snapback Gym in Palmerston North, took out the first award for Pacific Social Enterprise.

He says there is light at the end of the tunnel after experiencing the financial hardships of keeping his business afloat during covid.

“You never experience [success] unless you go through those tunnels – and tonight is one of those experiences where we saw the light and where we enjoy the moment,” he says.

The team at Independent Traffic Control, managing director Rau Tangiiti and CFO Piri Kake, were the first-ever recipients of the Pacific Excellence in Construction and Trade award.

Kake says government support helped them through the last two years, but there were periods of uncertainty for their business where 85% of its workers are Pasifika.

“I’ve got a payroll, I’ve got families relying on us to make sure they’re getting their weekly [and] fortnightly pay, so it was dynamic, it was changing every day,” he says.

Creative entrepreneur Nora Swann picked up the award for Pacific Woman in Business, owing her success to the roadblocks she has faced along the way, including two cancellations of her Pacific Fusion Fashion Show due to covid.

“It’s that thing of never giving up. That’s what we are as Pasifika people. We never give up, and we always think ahead, and we always focus on the positive,” she says.

“Sometimes the biggest thing is self-doubt and so don’t stop, just keep going and find your crew who will support you but don’t stop.”

PBT chairman Paul Retimanu says there will still be some headwinds for Pasifika businesses despite the covid challenges seemingly ending.

“There’s some work to be done. The good thing is a lot of our people still want to get into business, which is great, so we’ll be advocating for that,” he says.

Full list of winners:

Tautua Alofa Pasifika Award for Pacific Social Enterprise: Filipo Saua, Zenith Fitness and Snapback Gym

Fetu’u Fo’ou Award for Young Pacific Entrepreneur: Alexia Hilbertidou, GirlBoss NZ

Mataka Vou Award for Pacific Business Enterprise: Eli Tagi, WE MANA

Kanumea Afine Loto Toa Award for Pacific Woman in Business: Nora Swann, Nora Swann Ltd

Galu Fou Award for Pacific Innovation: Dain Guttenbeil, LifeStone

Langa Fonua Award for Pacific Excellence in Construction and Trades: Rau Tangiiti & Piri Kake, Independent Traffic Control 

Tū Rangatira Kama’atu Pacific Award for Pacific Business Entrepreneur: Orion Tiatia, Trust & Loyalty Security 

Moana Creative Enterprise Award: Neil Ieremia, Black Grace 

Arataki Award for Leadership in the Pacific Community: Debbie Sorensen, Pasifika Medical Association

Pacific Legacy Award: John Fiso, The Fiso Investment Group 



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