Northern Region Fono inspires action by all

posted: 8:45 am - 6th March 2018
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(Picture caption: Minister for Pacific Peoples Hon. Aupito William Sio speaks to church leaders at the Northern Region Fono.) 

Community leaders from all spheres of society gathered at the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) Manukau office for the Northern Region Fono.

The February 26 fono is the first in a series of fono being staged around the country, where the community come together to meet the MPP team and learn about the work it does.

General Manager, Regional Partnerships and event organiser Sina Aiolupotea-Aiono says the Fono is an opportunity for the Ministry to engage with community leaders, to develop new relationships and strengthen existing ones as well as to raise MPP’s visibility and manage expectations about the work it does.

“The Ministry has some big aspirations for its priority areas and this is a chance to tell people what we are doing in the Pacific Vision and Leadership space; in Strengthening Pacific Languages, Culture, Identity and Arts; Increasing Pacific Income and Wealth; and Supporting Government Agencies.”

Split into three sessions, the Northern Region team met with Pasifika church leaders, representatives from a wide range of non-government organisations and business and education community leaders at the Fono.

“We split these groups up because they all have their own unique experience of dealing with the Ministry,” Sina adds.

The Hon. Aupito William Sio opened the Northern Region Fono with a warm welcome and acknowledgement of the 50 Pasifika church leaders in attendance at the first session of the day.

He then gave a key-note address, which set out MPP’s aspirations, while asking guests what it is the next generation of Pasifika need to take from traditional cultural practices.  

“The next generation only knows Pasifika while the older generation – like my dad - still have one foot back in Samoa,” he adds.

“We need to ask what do we pass on to go forward with and what do we discard?”

Mr Sio has encouraged community leaders to ask questions of the Government and place demands around what it is they need to improve the wellbeing of Pasifika.

“With this government, we have the opportunity to ask questions, demand answers and meet with representatives … you may not get what you ask for specifically but if we push the boundaries enough, the Government will take into consideration the people its policies are affecting.”

After his address, Mr Sio opened the floor for questions, and leaders raised issues around immigration, the RSE scheme, housing and homelessness, relationship-building with the Government, and around sustaining Pacific languages and identity.

Mr Sio also shared about the need to grow Pacific leadership, and of the need to have representatives in governance and senior leadership roles to articulate the needs of Pasifika.

 “We need the community to identify people …. We need others in strategic positions to convince the rest of the public sector to value the same things we value.”

Pastor Eroni Waqasokolala (pictured below) from Grace Fijian Church in Glen Innes attended the Northern Region Fono to meet MPP staff and fellow Fijian pastors to improve his network.  

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Having arrived in NZ from Suva only 10 years ago, the Pastor says his mind frequently drifts back to Fiji, and he has often travelled back to his homeland. 

However, after hearing the Minister speak at the Fono, he has been inspired to focus on what he can help achieve in NZ, and what can be done to improve Pasifika wellbeing.

“I have enjoyed listening to Minister Sio speak about moving forward with regards to the health and achieving a high standard of living for Pasifika,” he says.

“I feel very confident about approaching the Ministry about all sorts of issues affecting our people.”

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