New Zealand Labour Party

Pacific Island Affairs


Labour will:

  • Act, including through the New Zealand education system, to officially recognise the five main Pacific languages used in New Zealand
  • Establish an Immigration Pacific Plan that recognises Pacific Climate Change refugees
  • Create a new collective Pacific Vision for Pacific people in New Zealand
  • Invest in Pasifika Youth so they achieve their aspirations and fullest potential
  • Strengthen and enhance New Zealand’s special relationship with the Pacific region


For New Zealand to do well, Labour believes Pacific people must also do well. Labour’s vision is for Pacific people and their families to succeed and prosper in an inclusive New Zealand society and to reach their fullest potential.

New Zealand’s future is inextricably connected to Pacific people’s socio-economic well-being, achievement, leadership and strength. Pacific people are not only one of the fastest growing populations in New Zealand, but they are also the most youthful and diverse population who’ll make up the future workforce of New Zealand.

Pacific people have created strong permanent communities and families in New Zealand. The depth of these family connections and Pacific people’s contribution to New Zealand – in the workforce, sports, the arts, academia, religion, local government, business and politics – has weaved its way to influence the creation of a new fabric of modern New Zealand society.

The close and special nature of New Zealand’s relationship with Pacific peoples in New Zealand as well as in the Pacific region is encapsulated in statements made by former New Zealand Governor Generals, Prime Ministers, and Ministers of Foreign Affairs. It prompted Prime Minister Helen Clark’s 2002 reconciliation apology to Samoa for the inept and incompetent administration of Samoa by New Zealand during the colonial period.

Policy area 1: Pacific Languages

Labour will protect Pacific identity by promoting cultural literacy with youth. We are committed to preserving and promoting Pacific languages, cultures, traditions, art and music, to ensure that children of Pacific origin have the opportunity to retain the language, culture and history of their forebears. Pacific people will lose their languages and cultural heritage without deliberate support and political will to protect and promote these treasures and support the community to pass onto the next generation of Pacific children.

New Zealand’s Pacific communities have a right to hear and see their own voices, stories, legacy and music in their own languages.  These cultural elements reflect not only New Zealand’s national cultural identity but also a platform for the economic and social development of Pacific peoples.

Cultural literacy enables Pacific children in New Zealand not only to learn to read, write and speak the words, but also enables them to learn the values that shape identities, life, quality decision-making and communities. The foundation for this work must be a strong commitment to Pacific languages now and into the future of New Zealand.

Labour will:

  • Recognise the following five Pasifika Languages as Official Community Languages in Aotearoa New Zealand: Samoan, Tongan, Cook Island, Niuean and Tokelauan.  
  • Enhance the use of these five Official Community Languages in the compulsory education system
  • Work with the tertiary education sector groups to encourage and support research by Pacific researchers and academics into appropriate models and curricula that enhance Pacific language bilingual education at all levels of the education system, including teacher exchanges with Pacific countries
  • Resume the publication of Tupu and Folauga series of reading books and journals and other appropriate resources for teaching Pacific language bilingual education.
  • Reinstate the goals for Pacific literacy, research, and bilingualism in the Pacific Education Plan which were removed by the National Government in 2009
  • Develop a Pacific Language Policy wrapping support around the Pacific community initiatives such as the Pacific language weeks and the organisations driving these initiatives.

Policy area 2: Immigration, Settlement & Pacific Climate Change

New Zealand has long-standing ties and a unique set of relationships with the Pacific Island nations including the three realm countries of Niue, Tokelau and the Cook Islands; the Samoan Quota, the Pacific Access Quota, the Treaty of Friendship with Samoa, the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme, and its sizeable Pacific population who have made Aotearoa their permanent home. Due to these strong and deep relationship, New Zealand is expected to take a leadership role and to be seen to be doing so in the promotion, fostering and strengthening of these unique set of relationships.

Labour also recognizes that Pacific Island nations are at the frontlines of rising sea levels as a result of climate change and global warming. People from the island nations of Tuvalu and Kiribati face real threats of being displaced from their home island and becoming climate change refugees through no fault of their own and will need to find new homes in future years.

Labour will:

  • Work with regional partners and organisations, and review migration policy to establish an Immigration Pacific Plan that recognises Pacific Climate Change refugees who have been displaced by climate change and global warming to ensure they have real and timely options for mobility across the region
  • Establish a Ministerial Advisory Group to examine the outstanding immigration issues with Pacific countries with a view of recommending lasting solutions reflective of our special relationship with Pacific Island states
  • Review the family reunification categories and Pacific quota to ensure they are accessible for Pacific people, are working effectively, and are consistent with wider Pacific development commitments
  • Retain the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme, monitor its effectiveness and contribution in New Zealand and the wider Pacific, and ensure that people working under the RSE scheme are free from exploitation
  • Establish a modern fit-for-purpose settlement programme based on international best practice and which is designed with local communities and government agencies and which will be required to address the adjustment needs of migrant as well as local communities.

Policy area 3: A new Pasifika vision

The make-up of the Pasifika population in New Zealand is changing, the number of Pasifika pioneers is declining, and the population of New Zealand-born Pasifika people is growing.  Unlike the vision of the pioneers which included returning to their home islands, the 60% of Pacific people born in New Zealand know no other home but New Zealand. This is firmly their place and home now. 

A new Pasifika vision is needed. The Samoan words tofa (wisdom) mamao (further away) when combined means the wisdom to envision or to visualise the future. This captures the growing desire to undertake le tofa saili or the wisdom to search for a new meaning of what lies ahead for Pasifika in New Zealand’s modern society.

Pasifika people need to develop a vision that explores what it means to be Pasifika in New Zealand today: our future role; our values, beliefs, culture, language, and religion; what successful Pasifika New Zealand looks like; and what our aspirations are for ourselves and for New Zealand.

Labour will:

  • Establish an annual Pacific Futures forum to support Pacific communities to create and build a new collective vision for Pacific people in New Zealand, to provide the framework and long-term goals to guide how government will work with Pasifika community, funded within existing baselines of the Ministry of Pacific Peoples
  • Quantify the Pacific people’s contribution to the New Zealand economy so we can measure that experience, monitor it, and develop policy that enhances and grows the Pasifika economy.

Policy area 4: Investing in Pasifika Youth

New Zealand has an ageing population. The Pasifika population, however, is young and combined with Māori, New Zealand will increasingly depend on this group as the future workforce. Investing early in the education and training of this group is an investment in the socio-economic future of New Zealand.  Our priority should be to prepare them for a high-value, highly skilled, high-earning workforce. We will need this workforce to be prepared for the future of work for their own sustainability and to support the aging population in future years. 

Investing in Pasifika youth must include working with Auckland Council’s Southern Initiative project, Local Government New Zealand, and businesses prepared to recognise the vision for a highly skilled workforce by giving young people the opportunity for cadetship, apprenticeships, or on-job experience and training.

Labour will:

  • Support the Auckland Council’s Southern Initiative project, Local Government New Zealand, businesses and NGOs which provide work opportunities on the basis of earning while learning with a focus on lifting achievements for young or long-term unemployed Pacific NEETs
  • Implement recommendations of the Future of Work programme that a enables New Zealand to provide security and opportunity to Pacific youth and to celebrate their individual successes and achieves collective outcomes for all.

Policy area 5: New Zealand’s special relationship with the Pacific

Many New Zealand political leaders and officials over the years have promoted and advocated the special relationship we have with the Pacific Island countries of the South Pacific region. Their statements reaffirm this special and unique relationship. Combined with growing intermarriages, business, educational and cultural links this relationship is deep and strong. Labour will continue to strengthen and grow this special and unique relationship.

Labour will:

  • Improve the portability of New Zealand Superannuation payments to Pacific people retiring in the islands
  • Work with Pacific Governments, the Pacific Islands’ Forum and transport service operators in New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific to ensure secure air, land and sea transport services to Pacific countries, especially to Niue, Tokelau and the Cook Islands
  • Improve and extend Radio New Zealand International and Television New Zealand services to the Pacific
  • Examine supply and access issues to facilitate the availability of products from the Pacific to New Zealand consumers while ensuring that New Zealand’s biosecurity needs are met
  • Discuss with the Governments of Tokelau, Niue and the Cook Islands the scope for progressively raising public-sector pay rates to a level comparable with those in New Zealand
  • Organise an annual Speakers tour in the Pacific for New Zealand Members of Parliament to learn about the effects of climate change in the Pacific region and its people
  • Following on from the last Labour Government’s apology to the people of Samoa for the harm done by previous New Zealand Governments during the period of colonial rule from 1914 to 1962, Labour will follow through and support responsible community discussions on appropriate acknowledgement of such wrongs so that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.