More than forty thousand people of Niuean descent live in New Zealand and a large proportion live in South Auckland, mainly in the electorate of Mangere, where New Zealand’s Minister for Pacific People Aupito William Sio is their elected representative.
To many in the crowd at the flag-raising ceremony yesterday, he is a well-known and much-loved politician of Pacific heritage and very much respected by the Niue community in Auckland and in Niue.
During his address, he spoke of the historical bond that exists between Niue and New Zealand long before the constitution of 1974 mixing the formal tone of his speech with an injection of humour as only a skilled orator would.
He spoke about eating too much uga, pigeons and bats and the great time he spend on a visit to the village of Hakupu, to see one of the many community projects funded by New Zealand, to the delight of the crowd of women from Hakupu.
On a serious note Minister Aupito Sio spoke of the refreshed Statement of Partnership agreed upon by the two leaders Prime Minister Ardern and Premier Tagelagi earlier this year in Wellington highlighting the five priority areas of Partnership, Prosperity, Resilience, and viable in climate change and Peace and Security and People.
He spoke about his passion and commitment to sustaining Pacific languages which led to the launch of the Pacific Language Strategy, he recently launched. “A strategy committed to ensuring that Pacific languages including vagahau Niue thrive, both in the home country here in Niue but also in Aotearoa New Zealand.
“It is crucial for our well-being and identity as a people and vital for our future generations,” said Minister Sio.
He spoke highly of the contribution of the youth representatives at the roundtable meeting on Tuesday with the Matakau Komisina he Vagahau Niue who spoke with such passion and commitment to sustaining the vagahau. “The confidence and the passion they displayed for who they are as peoples of Niue”.
Minister Aupito Sio recalled the commitment made by New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta to the collaboration between the Maori Language Commission and the Niue Language Commission when she visited Niue in August this year.
“These are important steps and I’m generally excited to see what we can achieve together”.
Towards the end of his speech, the crowd broke out in applause when Minister Aupito Sio announced an additional twenty million dollars in support to the government “Because of our responsibilities to Niue, Aotearoa New Zealand has provided an additional 22.4 million in budget support on top on the tri-annum commitment of 81 million. This is significant at a time when economies across the Pacific are struggling”
When he started to speak about his visit to the Niuefoou hospital to meet with the health team and Niue’s Covid Committee, the crowd applauded. “Today I would like to publicly acknowledge Niue’s outstanding management of the pandemic. It is an achievement of the government and of the people here on the Rock of Polynesia, we are here together today as a result of it and we owe a debt of gratitude to all those who dedicated themselves during this crisis to Niue and to the communities of Niue”.
Minister Aupito William Sio danced along with the other dignitaries and the people of Niue in celebration before leaving yesterday afternoon, hitching a ride with the Australian delegation.
The New Zealand government couldn’t have sent a better representative to Niue for the celebration of 48 years of self-government as the two nations forge ahead with renewed understanding and respect as equal partners in Niue’s constitution.