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Source: Auckland Council

Congratulations are in order for Solicitor Lanu Faletau who works in our Regulatory and Enforcement team. Lanu was recognised recently by the University of Auckland as one of their outstanding alumni in ‘The 40 under 40’ celebrations.

The celebrations recognise 40 of the university’s alumni aged 40 and under who are making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Lanu holds three degrees, is a lawyer and advocate for Pacific representation, and was selected as an Obama Foundation leader for New Zealand and Tonga. 

“The ’40 under 40′ recognition came as a total surprise,” says Lanu.

Lanu comes from a lineage of public office holders with her father and grandfather holding senior ambassadorial roles with the Government of Tonga.

“I’ve got my parents to thank for my achievements, especially my father who has supported and emphasised the importance of education in all of us, and especially while I was studying for my master’s degree because I just lost my mother which crushed me. I owe a lot to my dad really.”

As an Obama Foundation leader, Lanu is part of a dynamic international support network. Lanu explains how it came about.

“I had just read Becoming by Michelle Obama gifted by my step-mother. I didn’t think I had a chance of meeting them let alone being selected as an Obama Foundation Leader,” Lanu says. “Because of that belief, I almost didn’t get my application in on time. Meeting Michelle and Barack Obama in Kuala Lumpur last year was very inspiring and meeting the other foundation leaders was a humbling experience.”

Listen to Lanu and find out more on The 40 under 40 podcast

Born in Tonga, Lanu came to Tāmaki Makaurau with her sister at the age of 12 to continue her schooling as a boarder at St Cuthbert’s School for Girls.

“My father had attended boarding school in the UK as a very young boy and he was reluctant to send his own children away from home. However, with the school system in Tonga being interrupted by rioting at a crucial point in our education, the decision to send us to Aotearoa was made. Our family considers academic achievement very highly and it was through strong parental support that I have got to where I am today,” Lanu explains.

“Coming to New Zealand was a cultural shock,” says Lanu. “It was a shock to encounter external perceptions of Pacific peoples and it required navigating dual identities. It’s not an experience that was unique to me but is common among our people. It’s another reason I’m keen to be visible as a role model for those coming through today, and why I offer myself as a mentor when I can.”

Read more about Lanu’s volunteering and mentoring.

At Auckland Council, Lanu is part of the Regulatory and Enforcement team and is responsible for prosecutions of regulatory offences, which includes tribunal work, advisory work and appeals.

“I worked as a law clerk while I was studying,” says Lanu, “and began practising law when I was doing my masters. I moved into litigation and worked in criminal defence for 15 months before coming to the council.”

General Counsel Helen Wild says, “Lanu is a hugely valued member of our team, and I am so proud of her.  She approaches her work with clarity, fairness and consummate patience – all essential attributes in our challenging prosecution work. Lanu never brings attention to herself, so I am really glad that we can shine a light on her and all her great work at the council and in the wider community.”

Lanu says, “I love working at the council because the flexibility is not just in theory – I absolutely have my team’s and wider council colleagues’ support and that allows a work/life balance giving me time for my personal pursuits and community support projects.”

When we asked Lanu for her advice to other graduates she says, “The council is a huge organisation with senior subject matter experts in every field. If you’re thinking about a career in a particular field, reach out – they’re only an email away. You’re never too old for a mentor, I have a valued mentor to this day.”   

Find out more about our graduate and intern programmes.