Jerome Mika was just dashing home on Friday for a quick change prior to the launch of Labour’s Pasifika policy at Auckland’s oldest bilingual pre-school, A'oga Fa’a Samoa at Richmond Road Primary School.
He likes the choice of venue: all levels of education are vital, he says, especially given the demographics of the Pacific population in New Zealand which has a median age of 23 compared to 38 for the population at large.
“If we’re not investing in our young people then we can’t pay for our baby boomers. I feel really strongly about our youth policy - I think it’s really good.”
He’s equally passionate - not surprisingly given his background - about employment policy saying he regard National’s changes to the Employment Relations and Apprenticeship Acts as a legislative low-point.
“It’s so important for people to have that voice in the workplace. Many of our Pasifika people have English as a second language. They need a voice to advocate for them, to ensure they get a fair day’s pay for a day’s work.”
He credits Labour with helping his parents, who both migrated from Samoa in the early seventies, achieve that in the workplace and, later, to own their own home.
They in turn helped others, chiefly through their church roles. “Home was a bit of a community centre - not too different from an electorate office really. Mum and dad were pretty driven by their commitment to social justice.”
He says the possibility of politics “evolved” for him, rather than having been a conscious choice from the outset.
His working life started at a New Zealand Post mail centre, and included 11 years as an Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) delegate.
“As a delegate I had the opportunity to serve and advocate. It’s a privilege to do this as a delegate or as an MP.”
He’s been active in the local Pasifika community, setting up a North Shore Pasifika Festival which as well as celebrating culture(s) offered stallholders the opportunity to make some money for their organisation as stall costs were held at $80. Anything more than that was theirs.
Jerome says that while he’d love the opportunity to advocate within Parliament, he’s more focussed on Labour getting the numbers. “More than becoming an MP I want us to be the Government. That’s the best opportunity to change things.”