Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Long-serving Māngere MP relaxed about decision to leave politics

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Avatar photo
John Pulu | Presenter/ Reporter/Director

He’s been the elder statesman of the Labour Party’s Pasifika caucus in recent years, now he’ll be calling it quits later this year. John Pulu caught up with MP Aupito William Sio in his electorate of Māngere to look back on his time in politics.

Aupito William Sio has been the Labour Party Member of Parliament for the Māngere electorate for almost 15 years.

“All politics is local, doesn’t matter whether you are a minister or Prime Minister (it’s) really important to touch base on the ground,” Aupito says.

And he’s certainly done the groundwork to represent his South Auckland community in parliament.

“In 1989 the elders said, well we want our own voice in parliament and so we set out on a campaign to get the Labour Party to select a Pacific person. So, you know, one thing led to another but I was constantly pushed by the elders to be a voice,” Aupito says.

Reporter John Pulu caught up with MP Aupito William Sio in his electorate of Māngere to look back on his time in politics.

But before the Beehive in Wellington, Aupito used his voice in local government as councillor for the Ōtara ward in the former Manukau City Council. And in 2007 came the role no other Pasifika person had held – Deputy Mayor of Manukau City. This was a job that would set him up well for what was to come.

“You can’t take full credit for it all but obviously somebody has to try and lead that, to push things through, open the doors, and I think that’s been my role.”

Born in Samoa, Aupito’s family migrated to New Zealand when he was eight years old. He grew up and has lived in South Auckland ever since.

“I coined the phrase generation six B, to try and describe this wonderful generation that’s coming through of young people who are proudly brown, beautiful, brainy, bilingual, bicultural, bold,” he enthuses.

“I tease people by saying, only in Māngere it’s generation eight Bs, because we are brilliantly blessed but I was trying to lift their aspirations, I was trying to lift their confidence.”

Photo: Provided

Aupito entered parliament in 2008 and after years of advocating in the opposition, the Labour Party took power in 2017 and he became Minister for Pacific Peoples. He also became an associate minister of Justice, Foreign Affairs, Education and Pacific health.

“I was always aware that a voice for the Pacific was important. You could not necessarily speak confidently unless you were engaging and you were talking to people and that you were reaching into the various sectors of our community, a sector often not recognised by decision makers,” he says.

And Aupito’s work in the Pacific community paid dividends as a voice of calm and assurance during the covid lockdown period, helping to develop the unique messaging targeted at Pacific people to keep them safe during this time.

He frequently met with community leaders on zoom to update them on developments and was among the first to receive and advocate for the Covid vaccine when it became available.

Aupito at the Dawn Raids apology.

In 2021 Aupito realised a personal milestone when the government apologised for its role in the ‘dawn raids’ immigration crackdown of the early 1970s.

Alleged overstayers, mostly Pacific islanders, were targeted including Aupito’s own family.

“It was quite a painful and emotional moment because I, and my family, experienced dawn raids and here I am, trying to put everything together,” he says.

“(I) really will be eternally grateful to the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for trusting in what I recommended and for trusting to put herself under the mat in terms of the ifoga. I will never forget that.”

But the life of a politician is peppered with momentous occasions and the day-to-day challenges and sacrifices. Behind this very public figure, is his very private life, one that he’s always tried to protect.

“My daughters, my older kids, have always kept me grounded and my wife, I would not be able to do this job or not have been able to dedicate myself to this role, if they did not give me the support. The sacrifice has been theirs.”

Come October Aupito is closing that door on politics but he says he’ll be around.

“I think there will be some elements you miss. You know, you build a family of people that are committed to the same values and wanting to build a better nation for the next generation and you miss those debates, you miss the singing, miss the dancing… but not really,” he laughs.

“I think, you know, (if) you have the opportunities I’ve have, you got to make the most of it. We’ve got to work fast while the sun is shining and then you got to move on.”

Similar News



Stay Connected

Subscribe to our mailing list to receive daily updates direct to your inbox!

*we hate spam as much as you do

Recent News