While issues Pacific peoples face around the country may be similar, context is really important.
This is why Tauranga’s Namouta Poutasi says it is vital the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) continue its engagement and initiate discussions with communities around New Zealand.
The Ministry has been touring around Aotearoa, visiting regional centres to meet with Pacific communities based there, discussing their concerns and aspirations in a series of Lalanga Fou - Tulī Takes Flight fono.
On August 19, the Minister for Pacific Peoples Hon. Aupito William Sio and his Ministry were in Tauranga for a fono, which attracted over 200 attendees – one of the biggest turnouts of Pacific people Namouta has seen in the city, she says.
“It was a great opportunity to bring people together to focus on Pacific opportunities and challenges,” Namouta adds.
As one of the guest presenters at the fono, Namouta shared her experiences as Chair of the Pacific Island Community Trust in Tauranga (PICTT).
Of Samoan descent, born in Dunedin, and raised in Auckland and Wellington, Namouta relocated to Tauranga 13 years ago where she is the General Manager of Strategy and Science for the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.
She is also a committee member of the Aotearoa Pacifica Planning Practitioners group (APPG).
Throughout every region, Pacific people face challenges, and the community in the Bay of Plenty is no different, Namouta says.
“Pacific communities’ needs are wide and varied, and more recently there is a lot of demand for emergency housing, mental health support - particularly in schools, language translation, cultural education and immigration support.”
At PICTT, the team work to provide health, social and education services to Pacific people living in Tauranga and Western Bay areas.
These services include a mobile nursing service; youth mental health; outpatient support; smoking cessation; Whānau Ora services; Pacific Power Up; Flexi Plus; and wider community support.
“Our organisation is particularly focused on intergenerational wellbeing and equitable health outcomes for Pacific people,” Namouta says.
The fono has been an opportunity to address challenges the community face, and Namouta says having the Minister visit the PICTT office, and share the Pacific Vision, and Lalanga Fou goals helped do that.
“It was great to find out more about Lalanga Fou and the focus on culture language and identity, prosperous communities, healthy people and resilient youth to see how our work aligns.
“I was also really interested in the budget outcomes and the funding dedicated to Pacific people, the focus on broader support and particular mental health is strongly supported.”
It was great to see the acknowledgement through the Treasury report of all of the Pacific Peoples volunteer hours and the contribution Pacific peoples to the New Zealand economy of $8 billion as well, she adds.
“Showcasing economic opportunities through the Pacific Business Trust and how we can link in regionally was another particularly relevant area of focus.”
Namouta says the Pacific community is appreciative of the Minister and MPP visiting Tauranga to get a better understanding of the unique challenges they have.
“We are a small, dispersed and distinct Pacific population, with a high proportion of seasonal workers - Port of Tauranga is a big economic driver for us.
“While issues may be similar context is really important.”