Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

New council hoping to bring Pacific and Maori closer together

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Gladys Hartson | Senior Journalist

Former Mangere MP Aupito William Sio helps lay the groundwork for what he hopes will be a lasting relationship with Maori. 

Forging closer ties between tangata whenua and Pacific peoples in Aotearoa was the aim of  the inaugural Pacific General Assembly held in Auckland recently.

The gathering was hosted by the interim Council of Chiefs and representatives of the Kiingitanga, following the first Indigenous Wellbeing Conference held earlier this year. 

The talanoa is spearheaded by Pasifika and Maori advocacy group Mahi Moana together with former Labour and Mangere MP Aupito William Sio.

Aupito was appointed on the night as interim chair of the Council of Chiefs for the new Pasifika Body to engage with iwi groups such as the Kiingitanga on behalf of the community and says the project is a labour of love. 

He says whakapapa and whanaungatanga have grown over the years and it is  time to formalise that connection with Tangata Whenua.

“I would meet individuals in their 60s in their 70s who whakapapa to both Maori and an island in the Pacific and it’s wonderful… we can’t be blind to the injustices that are happening to Maori and to other people, we’ve got to be there to support it.” 

Archdeacon and private secretary to Kiingi Tuheitia, Ngira Simmonds, says it is the natural step in the relationship between nations of Te Moana Nui-a-Kiwa and Maori. 

“The support to hear the determination of our Pacifica brothers and sisters to be with iwi Maori, to uplift us, to support us in our pursuit of Mana motuhake is a deeply humbling experience,” he says.

“It’s also a position of privilege that we are aware of and grateful for to know that the closest of our kin across the Pacific support us. I know it will give all our people across the country a sense of strength for what I think is going to be quite a long journey ahead.”

Director for Mana Moana Tony Fuemana says the conversation is the first step to what he hopes will be many more with Maori. 

“So this conversation is not for me, it’s for my kids and everybody else’s kids, we can start the conversation now so it won’t have to be restarted in one hundred years time,” he says. 

“So if we do this, and we do this well, if we connect well with Maori, then I’m hoping that we can have that relationship, closer relationship, where we look after eachother in a more formal way.”

And it is the voices of the next generation that Maori/Samoan broadcaster Atahutahi Potaka-Dewes says are needed for the talanoa.

“I think for the first time I felt a massive political shift that both Maori and Pacific can finally jump on board together in my generation and I think it’s important that we encourage this talanoa, this korero to go beyond the leaders, the political figures, the heads of states, I think that it’s very important that we make this accessible to all.”

Additional kōrero/talanoa will be scheduled between now and July. At the end of July, a nationwide zoom meeting will be held, inviting all groups and individuals interested in participating in the movement.

Aupito encourages people to be a part of the journey. 

“Come, come join, be part of it, make contact; let’s sit down and talanoa because that’s our way,” he says.

“You know, a letter isn’t our way. It is face-to-face talanoa and all of those who want to organise their own grouping, I’m happy to come along and share what we know and share what we talked about.”

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