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Social enterprise Matada Research Group (MRG) Ltd has released its 2022 research findings. The report paper, entitled; The $7 cabbage dilemma: Pacific peoples & New Zealand’s COVID-19 response, is being called by the MRG research team a ‘huge step forward’ in understanding what matters to the communities themselves. The paper brings a personal perspective to the statistical data of the challenges Pacific peoples face in the current economic climate and real insights to how they see their future in Aotearoa.
Matada Research Group (MRG) Ltd. is a social enterprise specialising in transformative research, consultation and programme development to positively impact legislation, policy and practices to help improve Pacific peoples’ health and wellbeing.
The $7 Cabbage Dilemma is the culmination of months of research, which involved a series of candid discussions with groups from within New Zealand’s largest Pacific Island communities in Auckland and Wellington, backed by extensive statistical data and analysis of social and economic indicators and historical and contemporary publications on New Zealand’s Pacific peoples.
The report refers to the massive impact the post-Covid economic situation has had on an already disadvantaged group, but also highlights other concerns, from access to health services and intergenerational trauma to urban climate change and, increased community anxiety and uncertainty over providers.
Matada Research Group director Gerald Naepi identified the need for Pacific Research to be led by Pacific Institutions with the goal of better outcomes for future Pacific generations.
“We need to consider Pacific peoples’ own aspirations and challenges for the future. This white paper offers an opportunity to hear from Pacific peoples to build an understanding of what matters to them.”
Coming from a family of health professionals and entrepreneurs Gerald has always sought ways on how to best serve Pacific people for better health, education and socioeconomic outcomes.
“I wanted to bring the real experiences and aspirations of New Zealand’s Pacifica communities into the discussion in how to help Pacific communities become happy and healthy.”
Pacific peoples make a significant economic contribution to Aotearoa New Zealand, with Pacific individuals and businesses contributing $8 billion annually to the country’s Gross Domestic Product. As a population group they also contribute through unpaid labour, providing 27,000 hours per week each year of voluntary service. Despite such contributions to national financial wellbeing, Pacific peoples continue to experience significant socio-economic inequities.
Pacific people have a higher unemployment rate, a significantly lower median annual income of $24,300 (the median annual income in New Zealand is $31,800) and are the least likely ethnic group in Aotearoa New Zealand to own their own homes.
“These are communities already experiencing significant disadvantages in health, housing and the economy, who have been further disadvantaged throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gerald says.
Gerald Naepi is joined by his wife Dr Sereana Naepi at MRG as research consultant on The $7 Cabbage Dilemma project. Dr Naepi is experienced in Pacific research methodologies and has led indigenous research development projects, and been a media spokesperson on the issues of inequity in the tertiary sector.
“The most immediate concern for Pacific people around recovering from the impact of COVID-19 was the increasing cost of living, which was no real surprise given the lower median income,” says Dr Naepi. “Hearing firsthand the compounding impact when a cost increase in one area forces changes in other areas, creating new problems – looking through the lens of real experience, the picture you see becomes a lot clearer.”
“Some of what was put forward by the people from our Pacific communities who contributed to the discussion was reinforcing what we knew from the statistics,” continues Dr Naepi. “However, increased community anxiety and uncertainty over providers is a relatively new insight and one that we believe should be taken seriously.”
Aside from presenting the challenges Pacific people are facing in Aotearoa, the report also heard from participants their aspirations for the future. These included living in stable homes, a brighter economic future, sustainable futures and a thriving Pacific language and culture. The report delves into what these things represent within the Pacific Island culture. For instance, quality housing is seen as an essential element in making sure that family felt settled or that there was somewhere safe and welcoming for family to come back to in times of trouble.
The research also revealed the growing belief of how impossible these aspirations have become for Pacific Island families living in New Zealand.
“We believe it is more urgent than ever that we consider Pacific peoples’ aspirations and challenges for the future,” Gerald continues. “It’s our hope to see the research we undertake have a positive impact on legislation, policy and practices that will help improve Pacific peoples’ health and wellbeing.”
Matada Research Group (MRG) Ltd. is a social enterprise specialising in transformative research, consultation and programme development, backed by highly qualified and experienced researchers that have both international and domestic experience in research.