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Source: New Zealand Government

Thank you for having me join with you as we celebrate the success of Pacific businesses tonight, and recognise the resilient and innovative entrepreneurs who lead them. Equally important to me is, that we are also able tonight to offer up our gratitude to those leaders who have organised and made this space available for the light to shine on Pacific leadership.

As I reflect on all we’ve been through since the outbreak of COVID-19, I am reminded again of the strength and resilience of our community. I reflect on our community’s ability to persevere. How we have used our history, stories, language and culture to find confidence and vision. How we show kindness, hope, and love through some difficult and challenging times. Indeed, we are a people that believes in the spiritual realm. We believe all things. We hope for all things. We have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things.

I also reflect that if ever there was a time for strong, good, benevolent leadership to lead all aspects of our Pacific socio-economic response – now was the time that that leadership is needed. I think we need all Pacific leaders to step up.

The pandemic has changed every part of our lives, from the way we socialise with family and friends, to how we work, do business, shop and travel. It has changed also how we view the world, our Pacific region, our future focus, and what’s important.

Even when we secure a vaccine, we must continue to embrace the change that has occurred in our families, church, work, business and cultural spaces.

As businesses and communities, you have shown you can adapt and make those changes work for you.  Not against you.

As a Government we have worked hard to be there right beside you in responding to the COVID 19 outbreak, providing a range of programmes to support communities and businesses across Aotearoa/ New Zealand. 

From the $12.1 billion Economic Response Package announced in March, to the $50 billion COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, which includes the commitments from the Economic Response Package, this Government has provided support to businesses through a range of initiatives and programmes.   

These include the wage subsidy, consultancy support, small business cashflow loans and temporary tax loss carry-back.

This support will continue to respond and adapt as we face the on-going effects of COVID-19. We have to continue the dialogue with our communities, government agencies on how we can increase support, and accelerate our response, so that we are taking everyone along with us, and that no one gets left behind, as has been our experienced in the past.

Rebuilding together

Last week, the Prime Minister spoke to Business NZ where she outlined the Government’s top economic priorities before Christmas which will see the extension of the Small Business Loan scheme and initiating the roll out of the Flexi-Wage job support programme. This will increase the average subsidy paid to employers to take on a worker and enable an additional 40,000 unemployed people to take advantage of the programme.

The Prime Minister also confirmed that Cabinet will look to tick off more infrastructure projects to go through the RMA fast-track process over the coming weeks in order to speed up job creation.  

In September we announced $10 million of funding from the PGF for the renovation and improvement of Pacific churches across the regions, and we recently announced $8million to support the Kaute Pasifika hub in Hamilton, and of course, let’s not forget the $10 million we allocated from Budget 2020 for the Wellington Fale project. But there is more work that I want to see supported in the Pacific space and in the regions.

The Government is focused on two overarching objectives, to accelerate the economic recovery and to keep New Zealanders safe from COVID.

Pacific Wellbeing approach

For me, I am mandated to lead a specific focus on Pacific Wellbeing. I will be looking to consolidate focus, energy and resources, and working collaboratively with my ministerial colleagues to lift Pacific Wellbeing right across the board, and to ensure that all Government agencies are working in partnership with the Ministry for Pacific Peoples to support the aspirations of Pacific communities across Aotearoa.

Our values tell us we have a responsibility to look out for each other, to care for one another and to stand together.

It is these values that will continue to guide us all as stewards of our Pacific communities, ensuring we will not only get through the challenges we face today due to COVID-19 but we will grow and thrive.

Pacific Leadership

I believe we are all part of something larger than our individual selves.

We are expressing our collective will tonight by joining to recognize these businesses and organisations this evening.  

These individuals and groups we honour tonight are truly exceptional. I see them as our Pacific navigators, creators, innovators and leaders, and I am proud to honour their achievements, and we need more.

As we look to the future, Pacific leadership is going to be critical to ensure decision-making respects the cultures and needs of Pacific peoples. 

Our Pacific businesses and communities deserve the support they need to access the opportunities afforded to all New Zealanders. This in turn benefits all New Zealanders.

This Government recognises this and we will continue to work with and support Pacific Aotearoa. When Pacific peoples succeed, New Zealand will also succeed.

Pacific Vision

Our Pacific heritage and culture are our competitive advantage. It is an advantage that has been expressed by all of our communities, captured and published in our report, Pacific Aotearoa, Lalanga Fou. 

Through Lalanga Fou, Pacific communities told us what they needed to achieve to realise their full potential:  a vision of New Zealand where all Pacific people can lead confident, more resilient and more prosperous lives.

I have used Lalanga Fou as a guide, in my discussions with my Ministerial colleagues. As a Government we have reflected this vision through the initiatives announced in response to COVID-19 as well as for Budget 2020: Rebuilding Together.

Budgets and initiatives are never just about numbers.

They are about values.   They are about our vision and our future.

And they are about what we are doing to lay the foundations for every New Zealander to lead fulfilling and meaningful lives. 

For Pacific communities, our wellbeing agenda is built on four parts – supporting Pacific businesses to grow and creating opportunities across the economy for more Pacific people to enjoy meaningful, well-paid work, and successful enterprises; making sure we are training and supporting more young Pacific people with the skills they need to generate the incomes they need to support themselves and their families; providing better access to affordable homes and healthcare; and connecting more Pacific people to their language, culture and identity.

Investing in our future

Our communities flourish when our Pacific peoples have work and access to learning opportunities.  Supporting and nurturing the goals and aspirations of Pacific Aotearoa requires that we walk alongside them, supporting their decision-making and their futures. But I am clear in my mind that Pacific peoples must lead, design and be the authors of our own solutions.

Supporting the advancement of our communities gives them the opportunity to not only grow and succeed in their professional lives but to be a vital part of the growth and leadership of Aotearoa New Zealand. 

Seizing opportunity

Working together, we can build a stronger economy and a better society.  This means building and fostering genuine partnerships between Pacific Aotearoa and you, our Pacific business leaders, ensuring we are always led by the goals and aspirations of our Pacific people.

It is this relationship between our Pacific communities, our Pacific businesses and Government that is so crucial to the continued growth and wellbeing for all New Zealanders.

Kia kaha everyone and stay safe.