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Pacific communities are in crisis, says John Fiso

A Treasury report released yesterday by the government says Pasifika contribution to New Zealand is “significant”, but John Fiso ONZM, Managing Director of Fiso Investment Group and a well-known governance and executive leader in education, health and economic development, believes the picture is not as pretty as it has been painted.

“If Pacific New Zealanders are ‘significant contributors’, as the report states, then why do social indicators show these communities are at a crisis point, with median wealth abominably low?” Mr Fiso asks.

“And to say that the GDP measure of value is ‘narrow’ and measures like ‘voluntary work’ and ‘cultural capital’ should be taken into consideration is frankly avoiding the issue.

“At the end of the day, people need to earn to sustain their families and children need opportunities to compete for future employment.

“I do not need a Treasury report to tell me my people are contributing to New Zealand,” Mr Fiso said. “What I want is a strategy to end their suffering and break barriers to equality.”

According to a 2016 StatsNZ report, Pasifika people are the poorest ethnic group in New Zealand, with median wealth of $12,000, 12 times lower than European and four times lower than Māori. The national median average was $87, 000.

Almost half of all Pasifika preschoolers in New Zealand – and almost 40% of the Pasifika population – live in crowded housing, which is linked to many poor health and education outcomes. (See page 37 of this report.)
“These kids have the highest rate of rheumatic fever; our children also have an increasing rate of obesity, directly linked to deprivation,” Mr Fiso said.

“The situation is simply not good enough,” he said.

The new Treasury report, The New Zealand Pacific Economy, says that of a population of 310,000, only 160,000 Pacific people are employed and a mere 1,500 are employers. Pacific communities contribute only $8 billion of New Zealand’s $206 billion gross domestic product, according to the report.

“I would argue this contribution is not enough for the fastest-growing ethnic group of young in New Zealand. The total population of Pasifika people is expected to double to 650,000 by 2038 and the majority of those people will be born in New Zealand.

“Pasifika youth - as the fastest-growing group of young people in New Zealand - have enormous potential to contribute and help shape our nation, but deprivation experienced by Pasifika communities stops many of them seizing the opportunity. That’s a critical loss.”

Mr Fiso believes the economic situation of Pasifika people in New Zealand must be improved by:

• Meeting the very basic needs of every family in a sustainable way
• Sharing information to shift the mindset of communities and equip Pasifika youth to adapt and thrive in future economies
• Partnerships between private sector, government and communities to invest, with measurable targets, in addressing needs and creating opportunities for Pasifika.

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