May Seager is a familiar face in the Northland Pacific community after leading Fale Pasifika Te Tai Tokerau in Whangarei for over half a decade.
While joining the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) was not at all on her radar, May has taken up the role as Tupu Aotearoa Manager for Northland.
Assisting Northland’s growing Pacific population to find employment, complete further training or study to create thriving communities is a challenge May says she is more than prepared to tackle.
“Coming to MPP was not at all in my plans,” May says.
“I believe God has laid the path for me and I feel my life experiences – having lived in places where Pacific people are far and few between, but who may also struggle with a sense of identity and belonging – gives me a sense of understanding and empathy for our people in Te Tai Tokerau.”
Of Cook Islands and Papa’a descent (Welsh and English), May was born and raised in Auckland, and due to her “inquisitive and generally bolshy nature”, she took up journalism training at what was then known as Auckland Technical Institute.
May went on to report on events in the places where she consequently lived, including Auckland and several places around New Zealand.
“I ended up living in mainly small towns, or what I like to call villages - this was due to my husband, who I met in Putaruru, preferring the small-town environment where there was a real sense of community.”
While living in various small towns, May became involved in community groups such as theatre, community choirs, Plunket committees and sports clubs.
This involvement often led to leadership roles, while volunteering led to May being offered a job with Plunket around community services and the start of her management and leadership trajectory.
“However, these roles were all in mainstream and it was only when I moved to Northland I began working in the Pacific space, at Fale Pasifika Te Tai Tokerau.
“My experiences helped me to successfully lead the only Northland-based not-for-profit organisation to the stage where it was able to gain a major Whanau Ora contract last year.
“It was a new space for me but one that I absolutely loved, and I was keen to meet all the challenges it brought.”
May adds she has grown so much since then, particularly in becoming more comfortable and confident in her Cook Islands culture.
Life was not all about work however – and May considers her main achievements to being a mother to four children and partner to husband Brian.
They are an important part of her life, as they have helped mould her to be the person she is today, along with her parents and grandparents, who she holds close to her heart.
There have been other important influences in her life – her up-bringing in the PIC Newton church in Auckland, involvement with the PACIFICA women’s network and participating in the Mana Moana Leadership New Zealand programme in 2018.
May remains on a few consumer and advisory groups concerning health in her local area and at regional and national levels.
She also serves on several community groups including her local church council and she is a board member for the Cook Islands Development Agency for New Zealand (CIDANZ).
As part of her new Tupu Aotearoa role, May will work closely with Service Providers Literacy Aotearoa, SENZ, and Solomon Group in Northland, and she will draw on her heritage, extensive contact list and leadership experience to fulfil her duties, she says.
“I believe my knowledge of Northland, my networks, enthusiasm and absolute belief in the potential of our Pacific peoples will help me to help inspire and empower others when it comes to achieving our goals for Pacific Aotearoa.
“I have always championed education for all peoples but having access to statistics and information about how our Pacific Islands peoples are progressing in certain areas, makes me more determined to inform, share and champion for our people.”