Pacific representation in NZ politics

Last week was a very sad week for Pacific Peoples’ representation in Aotearoa-New Zealand.

The Pacific Peoples Advisory Panel in the Auckland Council presented to Council and raised again issues of their continuance.

Pacific communities want a discussion on how to best represent their views in the council structure and what resources are needed to be able to deliver on their needs.

Mayor Len Brown restated his support for the advisory panel but said issues relating to continuance would be decided by the next council.

This failure to commit has upset many Pacific leaders and people in Auckland. This concern is especially understandable considering the current review of the Local Government Act which would remove the ‘four well-beings’ – social, economic, environmental and cultural – which could stop councils providing a number of the services they currently provide. Councils may fear that, under the new act, anything outside of their core services falls outside of their role in legislation.

Last week we also saw the resignation of Afioga Galumalemana Alfred Hunkin from the NZ Minister of Pacific Affairs Pacific Advisory Council. His resignation highlighted that representation without resources or commitment from the majority group is an exercise in futility.

In his letter, Galumalemana Hunkin says the resignation is in protest over the meaningless 2012 Pacific Languages Framework strategy and the 2013 Pacific Education Plan launched on Thursday. He said Pacific communities in NZ are simply asking for what is fair and just and educationally rewarding for Pacific children.

He explains:

I am disillusioned of the repeated platitudes that continue to be trotted out each time by way of plans that have not had much substance nor resources financially or otherwise to make them useful or meaningful. Both the Pasifika Languages Framework of the MPIA and the PEP plan by MOE reflect no real commitment to policies that commit the Government to using Pasefika languages in the education of our children.

New Zealand governments for nearly 40 years, continue to ignore continuous lobbying and calls for our Samoan language for example, to be valued and to be used effectively in the education of our children. International and local best practice research supports the underlined positive intellectual & academic gains that our children would achieve from bilingual programmes. These continue to be ignored by government after government, including this present government. These plans are telling us that what we culturally and linguistically value & hold dear do not matter in New Zealand. We have been effectively told in these plans to ‘let them die’, with little or no government support or policy.

While the Pacific Education Plan does recognise the need for resources in early childhood education, it totally fails to support Pacific languages in schools, cutting children off from their language and culture at a critical point in their lives. My colleague Catherine Delahunty has also been participating in the Parliamentary Education & Science Select Committee inquiry into Pacific Island languages in Early Childhood Education which is still ongoing, but again, the Government refused to extend this inquiry beyond early childhood.

The Green party has four core principles on which all of our policy is based. Two of these are appropriate decision making and social responsibility. If we are to build an inclusive society, we need to ensure that all New Zealanders have a voice and the resources to be able to realise their aspirations. That will help build a harmonious society, as well as a productive economy.