Aupito Tofae Su’a William Sio is the Minister of Pacific Peoples in New Zealand’s newly formed Labour-led coalition government. He is also the Associate Minister for Courts and Associate Minister of Justice.
A member of the Labour Party, Minister Sio is the elected Member of Parliament (MP) for the Mangere electorate. He has been the Labour Spokesperson for Pacific Island Affairs, Inter-Faith Dialogue, Associate Foreign Affairs (Pacific Climate Change) and Ethnic Communities.
The Minister is an executive member of the Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA), an international non-partisan network of legislators in over 140 elected parliaments around the globe, aims to promote peace, democracy, the rule of law, human rights, gender equality and population issues by informing, convening, and mobilising parliamentarians to realise these goals.
Prior to entering the New Zealand Parliament in 2008, he served in local government as the deputy mayor of Manukau City and the elected city councillor for the Otara Ward. He is the first elected official of Pacific descent to hold a mayoral office in the city.
Born in Samoa and educated in New Zealand, the Minister for Pacific Peoples is a bilingual speaker fluent in Samoan and English. He is the first New Zealand parliamentarian to use his native Samoan to swear the oath of allegiance, and subsequently this year, the executive oath as a government minister, alongside the official English language.
He is a proud New Zealander, one of a generation of New Zealand Pacific people who are bilingual and comfortable in both worlds and equally proud of their Samoan heritage.
As a Samoan matai (chief), he holds the Ali’i matai (high chief) title of Aupito. Bestowed in October last year in Samoa, his father bequeathed the Ali’i title, transferring all land holdings, titles and legal authorities tied to the Aupito title, to his son in a ceremony of village chiefs and orators from the village of Letaupe, Matatufu, Lotofaga. The Minister has previously held the orator’s matai (chiefly) title of Su’a from Letaupe since 1990.
He also holds the matai (chief) title of Tofae by his maternal grandfather’s family from the villages of Falevao and Falefa.
A passionate advocate for Pacific peoples, the Minister believes that what is good for Pacific people is good for all New Zealanders. This includes a relentless voice on climate change and its impact on smaller islands and atolls in the Pacific region.
A public servant and former trade unionist with years of experience working in the government and community sector, he set up Samoa’s first private sector union in 1995. He has previously been a long standing member of the South Pacific Oceanic Council of Trade Unions (SPOCTU) and worked in Samoa’s Ombudsman’s Office. He has fearlessly advocated for the rights of workers in New Zealand, Samoa and the Pacific region, for the development of village based enterprises, and the need for Pacific governments to ratify the core International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions.
Migrating to New Zealand as a child with his parents and siblings, they settled in South Auckland. Less than three years after arriving in the country, they brought their first family home in Otara. He is the eldest of nine children, one of whom is deceased.
At the age of 15 years old, while still attending high school during the day, he worked the night shift in a factory to support his mother’s efforts to feed and clothe her family when his father became severely ill. Later when his father’s health improved, his father set up a taxi business for the rest of his working life to support their family. His father recently retired from working in his mid-70s.
Deeply rooted in the values of hard work, faith and models of servant leadership from the example of his parents, he lives by the Samoan saying O le ala ile pule o le tautua meaning The pathway to authority is through serving others and from his mother, who passed away in 1999, came the teaching that Whatever thou art, act well thy part.
Aupito is married with a family of seven young adult and teenage children.