Aupito William Sio
It is a real privilege and honour to be the Minister for Pacific Peoples in the Coalition Government, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
It has been a year since this new Government took office and we are making significant progress in building a more modern and fairer society for all.
As the Prime Minister has said many times now, this Government is working to transform New Zealand into a country that is the best country to raise children.
The best country to raise a family.
I think we all aspire and want this for ourselves and our families.
Delivering on promise
We are working hard all across New Zealand to deliver on our promises to improve housing, to keep investing in our public health services, our education system and the public workforce, to lift living standards, protect our environment and upgrade critical transport and other facilities.
We are rebuilding the hospitals, schools and public services that all New Zealanders rely on. And we are responsibly managing the Government’s books – running surpluses, paying off debt, and making the sound investments we need for the future.
The Talanoa Process
When I became the Minister for Pacific Peoples I asked the Ministry to engage with our Pacific communities through the Talanoa process in our search to find inspiration and confirmation from our communities about what issues are of priority to achieving their general well-being.
It is important that we reflect on how we have fared in the past, where are we now today, and where we want to be in the future, in our collective pursuit to achieve success, prosperity and security for our families.
To date, we have engaged with more than 2500 Pacific people representing the diversity Pacific community right across country including the emerging Pacific populations in the regions of New Zealand.
Pacific people are everywhere, and as I jokingly say to my Caucus colleagues, Pacific people are everywhere, they are going to take over New Zealand and then the world.
We have captured a snapshot of the dreams and aspirations and challenges which Pacific people are experiencing and all this will help in a new Pacific Vision for 2018 and beyond.
The last time Pacific peoples came together to discuss a vision was back in 1999.
Things have changed markedly then from where we are in 2018.
Our population continues to increase steadily.
There are more Pacific peoples from the realm island countries of Niue, Cook Islands and Tokelau in New Zealand than back in the Islands.
We are the youngest population with a median age of 22 years compared to 38 years for the rest of New Zealand.
This is important to note when the rest of New Zealand is aging.
Our Pacific population is also growingly New Zealand-born with more than 62% born here.
There is a growing cohort of children who have bicultural parentage, especially those born in the regions who whakapapa to Maori.
Despite the growing New Zealand born Pacific population, one of the key priority areas captured from our Talanoa process from our youth was that languages, cultures, spirituality and all those associated heritage values, are valued and important to the general well-being, sense of confidence and identity to our young people.
The Ministry for Pacific Peoples has collected all this feedback in a Reflections Report along with a new Pacific Vision statement officially presented at the Pacific Aotearoa Vision Summit on November 13, 2018, with the new Vision being:
“Pacific values are our anchor, with each generation weaving the foundations 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. We are Pacific Aotearoa.”
Building a modern economy
Along with the work of the Ministry, the Government is focused on building an economy that is fit for the 21st century and beyond.
We cannot continue to rely on an economy built on population growth in a few main centres, and an overheated housing market.
That is why we are helping our regions to prosper like our cities so more share in the rewards of economic growth.
The Provincial Growth Fund has already invested over $250 million in creating new jobs and opportunities across the country from the far north to the Deep South.
Real gains for real people
The most important measure of our country’s success and our economy’s success is whether it is delivering real gains for real people.
That is why we are working to ensure every New Zealander has access to world-class education and healthcare, and that everyone has access to an affordable warm, dry home, and in a community that is safe.
We are also helping New Zealanders who are struggling to make ends meet.
Our Families Package boosted the incomes of 384,000 families, which will reduce child poverty and help ensure New Zealand is the best country in the world to be a child.
We are investing in more teachers and new classrooms for thousands of children right across New Zealand.
We are working hard to establish and resource community programmes that will help young Kiwis gain valuable, sought-after skills and qualifications that can get them on the pathway to life-long work.
We want every New Zealander to have the opportunities to be earning, learning, caring and volunteering.
In health, we have reduced the cost of visiting a GP for around 600,000 people, so that healthcare is more accessible for Kiwi families.
We are also supporting safer communities by recruiting 1800 more Police Officers and investing in crime prevention.
Every time we prevent a crime from being committed in the first place, we save another New Zealander from being a victim.
But as we all know, we cannot fix everything that has hurt a lot of families in the last nine years, in only our first year’s budget. We have started the work, but there is so much to be done. As we continue working to ensure that we build strong foundations for all families to thrive and achieve well-being, we will need to stay close to our communities and be open to your suggestions. I promise to stay connected and be open to your feedback.
Aupito William Sio is Minister of Pacific Peoples. He is a long-standing friend of Indian Newslink stimulating our readers with his thought-provoking articles.
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