Labour has four new Members of Parliament
The Labour Party in New Zealand's Parliament has four new Pasifika Members of Parliament, with a fifth possibly on the cards when special votes are fully counted and announced on November 06.
Samoan, Anae Dr. Neru Leavasa won a new electorate seat in Takanini. He has been a practicing doctor for the last 12 years and said he has become more engaged in politics for the last four years.
He was born in Mangere, and said he is motivated to tackle poverty and poor housing and stop them negatively affecting health.
“Social policies are important to me because those are the policies that underpin health,” he told Radio New Zealand Pacific.
As well as practicing medicine, Anae runs a virtual health service called The Waiting Room and has been a sports team doctor for the Manu Samoa and the Blues in the past.
Terisa Ngobi is Samoan and Scottish. She and her husband Henry Ngobi have three sons, which are her inspiration for getting into politics, she told Radio New Zealand.
“Just making sure that they're going to be at the same level playing field as everybody else,” she said.
Ms. Ngobi is the first Pacific Islander to ever win the Otaki electorate, which has been held by one National Party M.P. for the last 12 years.
Before Parliament, she worked in social service roles from housing to disabilities, and studied public policy and Pasifika studies at Victoria University.
“I, like my colleagues, all have that same drive to make Aotearoa the best place to live,” she said.
“There's also a special place in my heart for Pacific people, what it means for us? And how can we help to contribute to make sure Pacific people are living their best lives.”
Barbara Edmonds has worked in the public sector for over a decade but it is her first time joining Parliament.
She said she is proud to be part of a diverse caucus, of not only the largest group of Pacific Parliamentarians but also growing numbers of other minority groups in New Zealand.
Ms. Edmonds, who won the Mana electorate, is a specialist tax lawyer and has eight children. When the Labour Party selected her as their Mana representative, she said it was an opportunity to improve life for others.
“This is why you came to New Zealand, to give me a better life and now is the time to repay that,” she said to her father, who moved with her mother from Samoa in 1978, in her selection speech.
Ms. Edmonds told Tagata Pasifika she finally decided to try her hand at politics at the tangi (funeral) of her former colleague and friend Randall Hippolite, who she used to work with alongside the late Willie Taurima on the Mana College board of trustees.
“For decades these men had worked so hard for change in the Porirua community and reflecting on that at Randall’s tangi helped make up my mind, I left the tangi that day and submitted my nomination.”
Waiting for the special votes to be counted and the results announced late next week is Lemauga Lydia Sosene, who has been working in Auckland local boards since 2010.
She may get into Parliament as a List M.P. if the votes allow. At the last election she was number 44 on the list, and is number 54 this year, just two places below Anae.
Her parents moved to New Zealand from Samoa in the 1950s, and her father was a founding Minister of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa in Otara.
Also new to Labour’s caucus and bolstering the Pacific representation is Tangi Utikere, whose family hails from the Cook Islands.
He said he has long wanted to represent his community in Parliament.
“I wanted to run for M.P. because it's always been around representation for the city,” he told Radio New Zealand.
“This is where I was born, raised in, educated, where my family settled, and so it was about providing an opportunity to go to the electorate with someone saying, look! I'm a local, I have a strong local voice for this city.”
He joins Labour incumbent Cook Islander Poto Williams, and the Green Party’s first ever Pacific Island M.P., also from the Cooks, Teanau Tuiono.
With her landslide victory on election night, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stands at the helm of the largest ever representation of Pacific Islanders in Parliament, with 11 people in total so far.
Labour incumbent and previously the Minister of Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio told Stuff that young Pacific Islanders across New Zealand rightfully expect a lot from their representatives in Parliament.
“The older generation always felt like they had one foot in New Zealand and one foot back in the islands but their children, the next generation, this is their home.
“So they have every right to have high expectations of their political representatives, from us as Pacific politicians and particularly from the Labour Party.
“My style is, we need to take everyone with us, once the Government is formed, we’ll look at what we've done so far in the last three years. There are areas that we need to find ways of accelerating.
“That can’t be done by government and agencies alone. That requires our Pacific people playing a significant role and I’ve been quite straightforward with our people – I need them to lead the designing, the developing of solutions.”