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Treasured elder leaves gap in Rotorua’s Tokelau community

Treasured elder leaves gap in Rotorua’s Tokelau community

  • 31 Oct 2022

A valued elder of the Tokelau Rotorua community, Vaha Tuiela, QSM, (pictured), has sadly passed away leaving a rich legacy behind him. 

Although Vaha left Tokelau in 1966 for New Zealand, his homeland was never far from his mind or heart, and for the past 50-plus years, he actively supported the Tokelau community in his new hometown of Rotorua. 

Vaha once said he had lived on the words, "We are here to serve, not to be served", ever since arriving in Aotearoa. 

As an elder of the local Tokelau community, Tokelau Kaiga Fakaofo, Tutolu Sports and Culture Association, Vaha was passionate about ensuring Gagana Tokelau continued to be an important treasure for the Tokelau young people of Rotorua. 

For 16 consecutive years, he served as the president of the Tokelau Rotorua Community and fuelled by his commitment to keeping the Tokelauan language alive, he voluntarily ran language classes for several years. 

Vaha led forum groups to translate the Tokelau Bible and dictionary and translated for and offered guidance to Te Lumanaki Pacific Service to better support Pacific families who had been involved with Oranga Tamariki. 

He also convened the Pacific people of St Johns and volunteered as an outreach ministries leader at Rangipo prison, as well as presenting Sunday radio broadcasts for the Tokelau news channel. 

His dedication to his community earned him a Queen’s Service Medal in 2019 for Service to the Tokelau community in Rotorua, and in 2021, he was recognised as a Ministry for Pacific Peoples Language Champion. 

Vaha leaves a huge gap in the community and will be missed dearly - our condolences to his family and the Tokelau Rotorua community at this sad time.