Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tributes flow as Fa’anānā is farewelled in moving memorial

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Soana Aholelei | Reporter / Director

Thousands gathered to pay tribute to 49-year-old Green MP, Faanana Efeso Collins  at the Due Drop Events Centre in Manukau on Thursday afternoon.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon was present with MPs from both sides of the house alongside civic and community leaders.

“He leaves a legacy of advocacy, of service, of love for God of family and community.” says Labour Party deputy leader Carmel Sepuloni. 

“It’s really hard to imagine what this world and what this landscape is going to look like without the amazing voice and advocate that Faʻanānā Efeso was.” 

Dave Letele, community leader, was with Faanana at the time he collapsed and passed away.

“It was an incredibly sad day when it happened. I was glad I was there in terms of being able to make sure everything was done properly, spiritually, the respect for him was done properly. But you know we’ve lost a community leader,” Letele says

Maungakiekie-Tamaki Ward Councillor Josephine Bartley remembers her friend fondly.

“Oh, it’s a very sad day but also a beautiful celebration of probably, for our generation and generations below, this is the biggest loss we’ve ever had of a leader.”

Members of the Green Party also on hand to pay their respects.

“Were just here to say farewell to our bro, a massive loss for South Auckland, a massive loss for the Pasifika community and a massive loss for us as a green movement,” says Green Party MP Teanau Tuiono

Hon Marama Davidson – Green Party Co-Leader shared the same sentiment

“This is huge and the Green Party whanau, all our MPs, are so deeply honoured that we were privileged to give him his final political platform.”

Such was the mana of this community leader that during the week many came from throughout the city and Aotearoa to pay their respects at Tipene’s Funeral home in Onehunga.

Childhood friend Pastor Pene Faumauina from the Otara Baptist Church remembers Faʻanānā fondly, “I think for me, just being a great friend, even in all his business and all the things that he was doing, he always had time, you know, always make time for us.”

Good friend and union colleague Fala Haulangi paid her respects with other members, “we’re going to lose a courageous and fearless leader and we need more leaders like, you know, like him so that his legacy continues.”

For the family, the burden of their grief has been tempered somewhat by the many messages of support, allowing time for reflection

“I think I just remember him as a brother. He had many roles. He had many roles. People saw him as a comedian, as an MC, as a politician, as a counsellor,” recalls Faanana’s Brother-in-law Ralph Elika. 

“But I think I’ll always remember him as a father and a father to my nieces and a husband to my, to my sister. That’s enough.” 

News of Faʻanānā’s passing came as a huge shock, he was at a charity event in the city on Wednesday morning, February 21 when he collapsed. Despite the best efforts of Ambulance staff, he could not be revived. 

The news of his passing reverberated through the media and into parliament where MPs and the Prime MInister took a moment to express their condolences. 

The house then agreed to adjourn until the following Tuesday out of respect for Faanana and his family.

The Fallen Green MP had only just delivered his maiden speech to Parliament less than a week earlier, a symbol of pride and expectation for his family and community.

Often outspoken, he was never afraid to speak his mind and he was especially proud of his South Auckland roots, which reaffirmed in his maiden speech. 

“As a son of Samoan immigrants who made the mighty Otara 274, Southside hard, their home, I’m well aware of the giants whose shoulders I stand on.” 

Faʻanānā had a lot of time for young people, after graduation from Auckland University with a master’s degree, he spent many years on a school’s mentoring programme, encouraging our Pacific students to continue in their learning.

“I was 17. I was fresh out of high school going into university. And it was actually Vasa Fia that went home and said to Faʻanānā Efeso one day, ‘there’s a young Samoan guy, you need to meet him. You need to meet him. We need to support him. We need to pour into him.’ And up until his dying day that was him,” recalls family friend Taito Eddie Tuiavii.

“He poured into me personally. He poured into me professionally so it’s something that I’ll never forget and I’ll always be extremely grateful and thankful for.”

As Faʻanānā’s family come to terms with his passing, we are reminded of the trail he blazed for his community, in the short time he was with us.

Faʻanānā grieving widow Vasa Fia Collins had this message for the community he loved.

“Fess died serving others … he has finished his leg of the race and the baton is now firmly in all of our hands, please don’t let all that he did, all his hard work, blood sweat and tears, be for nothing.”

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