Media 14 Feb 2019
New Zealand-based business councils are crucial to the work of the Pacific Cooperation Foundation, the CEO Don Mann said this week.
Speaking to Kaniva Tonga news, the Foundation's new CEO, Don Mann, said bodies like the New Zealand Tonga Business Council, the New Zealand Fiji Business Council, the New Zealand Samoa Trade and Investment Commission, the French New Zealand Chamber of Commerce provided an important private sector voice.
"We sit in the middle, between government and from them to the private sector."
"As one example, the NZTBC is essentially a New Zealand agency, but speaks to a lot of Tongan business owners."
"Tongans running businesses here have deep links to the business community in Tonga."
"It is absolutely valuable working with them because they work both sides of the border."
Mann, whose father Don Sr was from Neiafu in Vava'u, took over as head of the Auckland-based body last month.
"We want to be at the top of people's minds when they want to do business in the Pacific."
Mann said that while the Foundation had been established by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, it was important that it was seen as independent.
He said this helped its mandate to work with 18 countries in the Pacific creating opportunities for business, helping developing leaders and putting people from different sectors together.
He said New Zealand operated as a Pacific nation, which made it different from Australia.
"There are many similarities between the two nations, but at the end of the day the difference is that we have a unique Māori identity," Mann said.
He said culture was at the heart of the national identity and how people saw themselves. Apart from his links with Tonga, he has affiliation with Ngāti Kahungunu through his mother.
"I have a Māori mum and a Tongan father," Mann said.
"I was born in Auckland and consider myself to be both Tongan and Māori."
"I have family in the US and Australia consider them Tongan."
"It's who we are, how you see yourself," Mann said.
"As they say in Te Reo: 'E ngā tangata o Te-Moana-nui-a-Kiwa ' - we are the people of the Pacific."
PCF has a long term goal of creating business opportunities between Māori business and Pacific Island resource owners.
Iwi economic entities are worth about NZD$40 billion. He said Pacific nations could learn from iwi about how indigenous bodies had developed over the years into successful businesses and managed economic and social transitions.
PCF could be a conduit for this kind of knowledge sharing.
Areas of cooperation could include resource based industries.
Mann took over at PCF after being Head of Corporate Partnerships at ATEED. While with the Auckland Council body, he led Pasifika stakeholder engagement which included the Pacific Business Trust Awards and the Pasifika Festival commercial strategy. He also mentored emerging Pacific Business Leaders and advised Pasifika business owners.
Originally a policeman, he left the force when he was 33 to go into sports management and became general manger of the Warriors.
His family has strong ties to rugby league. His uncle George founded the Mate Ma'a Tonga. His father played league professionally and his brother Duane captained the Kiwis and MMT.
His father ran a well-known heavy haulage company and was involved in several major infrastructure projects around New Zealand. He liked to point them out to his family as a tangible mark of what he achieved.
Mann said that in each role he had been involved with he had been able to make a serious and positive effect on people's lives and wanted to do the same at PCF.
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