New Govt among most diverse

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (third from left) with Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy and the...
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (third from left) with Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy and the new executive. Photo: Getty Images
A large Maori and Pasifika contingent makes up the new Government, making it one of, if not the, most diverse group of leaders in the country’s history.

Thirteen ministers sworn into Government yesterday are either of Maori descent or hold ties to the Pacific.

A record four ministers are of Pasifika backgrounds.

Within Cabinet, they are Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni, of Tongan and Samoan descent, and Jenny Salesa, who becomes New Zealand’s first Tongan-born and Tongan speaking Cabinet Minister.

She is the new Minister for Building and Construction as well as for Ethnic Communities.

Outside Cabinet, former journalist Kris Fa’afoi, whose parents are from the small Pacific Island nation of Tokelau, is the new Minister of Civil Defence and Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

South Auckland Samoan community leader Aupito William Sio takes up the role of Minister for Pacific Peoples.

The majority of the group paid tribute to their respective cultural backgrounds by wearing some form of traditional Tongan or Samoan dress, while Mr Sio also honoured his motherland by saying his oath of allegiance in fa’asamoa.

Other new ministers also chose to say their oaths in te reo Maori, including Minister of Corrections, Tourism and Crown/Maori Relations Kelvin Davis, Minister of Forestry and for Infrastructure Shane Jones and Nanaia Mahuta, who takes the reins as Minister for Maori Development.

Others with Maori affiliations are new Minister of Defence Ron Mark and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, who has iwi links to Ngati Wai.

Outside Cabinet, Willie Jackson becomes the new Minister of Employment, Meka Whaitiri is Minister of Customs and Peeni Henare is Minister for Whanau Ora and Youth.

Fletcher Tabuteau becomes a parliamentary under-secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Previous governments have also had several ministers of various cultural backgrounds — Pacific, Maori and Asian — serving at different times, but not as many as those who will serve at the same time in this new Government.

Bernadette Pereira, the head of Pacific women’s group Pacifica Inc, said it was wonderful for the local Pacific community.

"It is a proud moment for the Pacific communities around New Zealand to have good Pacific representation in Parliament at ministerial level."

Ms Salesa acknowledged how far she had come and, therefore, how achievable it was for others such as her — an immigrant — to follow.

"I am immensely proud, as an immigrant and as a Pacific woman, to show that anyone who comes here can dream big and can be successful through perseverance and hard work at whatever they set out to do.

"New Zealand was a land of opportunity for me and as a Cabinet Minister, I can play a part in ensuring it remains so for everyone who chooses to live here.’


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