‘Oku ou fakafe’iloaki māfana faka Pasifiki atu! Warm Pacific greetings!

It was with some feelings of déjà vu that I attended the recent Pacific Aotearoa Summit hosted by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples.

The keynote address was delivered by Hon Aupito Tofae Su'a William Sio, Minister for Pacific Peoples.

The Vision for Pacific Aotearoa as set out by the Ministry is:

“Pacific Values are our anchor, with each generation weaving the foundation for the next to stand on. Pacific communities are leading innovations within Aotearoa, the Pacific region and the world. We are confident in our endeavours, we are thriving, resilient and prosperous Pacific Aotearoa.”

– Ministry for Pacific Peoples

I was involved in the very first Pacific Vision Conference in 1999, when I worked for the Ministry. The Pacific Aotearoa Summit was held almost twenty years after the first Pacific Vision Conference. One of the key challenges was always going to be how the Ministry would use the opportunity to track how we have done since then. This proved to be a challenge given the breadth and sheer size of the sectors covered particularly health, education and social services. However, there was a clear beacon of light and the putting to rest, finally, of a controversial view held by some, that caused a stir in the Pacific community in 2008. 

Some of you may recall a controversial report by Dr Greg Clydesdale, a New Zealand economist from Massey University in 2008, claiming Pacific peoples were a drain on the economy.

It’s taken ten years to quantitatively and unequivocally show how very wrong Dr Clydesdale’s assertions were. The highlight of the Summit last week, and unfortunately the only thing of any real substance to come out of it, was the Treasury report, “The New Zealand Pacific Economy”. The report was launched and presented by the Minister of Finance, Hon Grant Robertson

“The report reveals Pacific peoples are contributing significantly to the economy despite some of the poor health, housing, education and employment outcomes experienced by many in their communities.”

– Hon Grant Robertson

Key findings from the research include the following.

  • Pacific individuals and businesses contribute $8 billion to New Zealand’s annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) using the income measure.
  • Pacific workers earned $6.6 billion in the 2017 financial year, equating to six percent of the income of all New Zealanders. However, the average income was $40,300 compared to $53,500 for non-Pacific.
  • The spending of Pacific households contributed $10.4 billion to the expenditure measure of annual GDP.
  • Annual household income is estimated to be $12 billion from 101,000 households.
  • There are approximately 1,500 Pacific business employers and 500 not-for-profit organisations with assets totalling $8.3 billion. Arising from these assets, the total production GDP (or value added) of Pacific in New Zealand was estimated to be $3.1 billion annually.
  • Pacific New Zealanders across the country spent 27,000 hours per week doing voluntary activities.

“While the research explores the monetary value of the Pacific economy, the Government recognises for Pacific people wealth is defined more broadly and includes knowledge, family, faith, education, health, and culture… we are taking these broader aspects into account as we develop our Wellbeing Budget.”

– Hon Grant Robertson 

This is a story worth telling. It is good to see the significant contribution the Pasifika community provide here in Aotearoa.

We all know the negative socio-economic statistics and how Pasifika alongside Māori are over-represented in the negative indicators. But for once, it is good to celebrate and share how Pasifika are positively contributing to New Zealand’s economy and society as a whole. 

Tu’a ‘ofa atu
Pakilau o Aotearoa – Manase Lua