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‘It will set us back many years’ – New government to have no Pacific representation

9 November, 2023

Interview by Rosetta Stone, adapted by Athena Li-Watts

The incoming government has no Pacific members. Associate Professor at the University of Auckland, Sir Collin Tukuitonga, is concerned about how the new government will be able to properly consider the interests of one of Aotearoa’s largest demographics. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Now that election special votes have been counted, the previously leading National Party candidate, Angee Nicholas, has lost the Te Atatu electorate to Labour’s Phil Twyford.

Nicholas would have been the only Pasifika MP in the National-ACT-New Zealand First coalition government, meaning the government will have no Pacific representation for the next three years.

Associate Professor and Co-Director of Te Poutoko Ora a Kiwa, a research centre focused on Pacific health at the University of Auckland Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, Sir Collin Tukuitonga, told 95bFM’s The Wire that the lack of representation in government is concerning. 

“I think it will set us back many years.”

The previous Labour-led government had 10 Pasifika MPs including Deputy Prime Minister, Carmel Sepuloni.

Tukuitonga believes Pasifika communities need an effective voice to advocate for issues that affect them — including inequities in education, healthcare, housing, and employment. 

He says the ACT Party’s proposal to abolish the Ministry of Pacific Peoples will also negatively impact outcomes for Pacific people. 

The Ministry of Pacific Peoples was established to provide cultural support and advise larger, better-funded ministries on improving systems that disenfranchise Pasifika communities.

The ACT Party has called the ministry “woefully ineffective” and expensive.

But Tukuitonga argues the ministry is a necessity for Pasifika communities.

“It has been shown many times that a universal ‘one size fits all’ is ineffective for some groups, and that is why we need targeted programs.”

Official election results have revealed National and ACT do not make up the 62 seats necessary to form a government alone, meaning New Zealand First will be necessary for a coalition government.

Tukuitonga hopes the addition of New Zealand First’s Winston Peters and Shane Jones, who have had extensive experience with Pasifika and Māori communities, will have a positive impact. 

“I hope they put a break on some of the ridiculous ACT proposals that we have heard pre-election.”

Recently defeated National Party candidate for Te Atatu, Angee Nicholas, stated before the final results, “You don't have to be Pacific to understand Pacific issues. If you talk to the community, you get engaged.”

Tukuitonga does not believe that National and ACT are adequately engaged. 

“The fact is, the National Party does not have a strong and respectful relationship with Pacific communities and definitely not the ACT Party.”

Listen to the full interview

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air