New Pasifika politicians welcomed with ava ceremony

New Zealand’s new Members of Parliament with blood connections to the Pacific, including Samoa,  have been welcomed with an ava ceremony.

There are five new Parliamentarians with Pacific heritage, who were elected in last month’s general election in New Zealand, bringing the total number to 11.

The welcome ceremony on Monday was a combination of the Cook Islands turou, Samoan ava and Christian laying on of hands on the leaders.

According to R.N.Z., senior Labour M.P. and Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio, presided over the ceremony, and said the symbolic event is sending a clear signal to all of New Zealand that Pacific people are an integral part of New Zealand society.

“And therefore here in Parliament we're presenting our five new Pacific Members of Parliament, Labour and The Green Party, and arming them for the fight ahead,” he said.

Carmel Sepuloni, who is the highest-ranked MP of Pacific heritage in the New Zealand government, paid tribute to all her former Pasifika colleagues stating that in terms of diversity and representation across the House there is still much to be done.

“This is the House of Representatives and so it is important that every political party represents the diversity of our communities,” she said.

“It's a proud day to welcome five in here and I am sure without wanting to be political, because that is not what this is about, all political parties should be looking at growing the diversity within their own political parties.”

R.N.Z. reported that the Otaki M.P. Teris Ngobi – who is of Samoan and Scottish descent – emphasised that they will also get to have a voice for the Pacific people in a place where it matters, which is the Parliament.

“My mum's from Samoa so when she came over here in 1975, it was with hopes and dreams for a better life for any children she may have later,” she said.

She added that it is special to celebrate the moment with her and the family “knowing the sacrifices they made including leaving their homes so that we could have a better life.”

According to the R.N.Z., the ceremony was also special for Takanini M.P. Anae Dr. Neru Leavasa, whose brother in Samoa stood in for him at the ava which was conducted to bestow him his Matai title. 

He emphasised that he is looking forward to serving his Takanini constituents and also seeking better outcomes for the Pasifika community.

“In terms of my priorities, it is that I can input and influence the Pacific health and lifting health and well-being for our peoples,” he said.

The Green Party's first ever M.P. of Pacific and Cook Islands heritage, Teanau Tuiono, said for him his election is an acknowledgement of what Pasifika has brought to the table. 

Aupito William Sio has been contacted by the Samoa Observer for a comment.

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