New Tongan JP ready to 'give it a go'

Kaliopeta Talanoa Palu
Kaliopeta Talanoa Palu

A first for Waitaki.

On Thursday, Waitaki Tongan Community president Kaliopeta Talanoa Palu was sworn in as Waitaki's first Tongan justice of the peace.

Ms Palu was appointed a JP last week and was looking forward to receiving her first request for help.

What motivated her to take up the role was the demand from her own community and a willingness to provide a face they could recognise and feel comfortable dealing with.

"Last year one Sunday afternoon someone from the community rang and asked if I knew any JP that worked on Sundays.

"Because of our culture we thought no-one worked on Sunday, but he needed a document in Auckland on Monday morning. I rang and found someone close by.''

The hunt for a JP who was open to helping people no matter the time drove her to complete her qualification to become a JP.

"I thought I'd give it a go and help my people any time they needed help or anything.''

Ms Palu said there were a growing number of Pasifika people in North Otago and that meant a growth in visa applications and other legal documents for people new to the country.

She said her family and community were "over the moon'' about the appointment.

"My children are my backbone. They're one of the reasons I am where I am today.''

When the announcement made it to social media it was greeted by people from all walks of life which "proved I was in the right place''.

Her appointment sent a clear message to Pasifika children growing up in North Otago.

"Nothing is impossible.''

Ms Palu arrived in Aotearoa in 1986 from a village outside Tonga's capital, Nuku'alofa.

In 1987 she moved to Oamaru where she raised her children. Her grandchildren now live locally.

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said there were two other female Tongan JPs in the South Island - in Blenheim and Dunedin.

Twenty justices of the peace of Tongan descent have been appointed since the ministry began recording ethnicity statistics in 2000.


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