News Item

NZ Pacific and Pacific region: Let's not be complacent

News 20 Apr 2020

Q&A with Fiso John Fiso ONZM: Chairman Whitby Collegiate, Wellington and Chairman Pacific Health Plus, Porirua.

Speaking to PCF from his family home in Wellington, John shares how he is looking out for the New Zealand Pacific community, his perspective on education & employment and what it means to assist the Pacific region amidst COVID-19.

How do you think the Pacific community in NZ has done in terms of responding to the outbreak?

We should be confident and happy where we sit, but definitely not complacent.

If you think about places in New Zealand such as South Auckland and Porirua in Wellington where a high number of Pacific people reside, there aren’t high numbers of overseas tourists that come through in those areas and so you might argue that as one of our saving graces.

But it’ll only take one or two cases to change this, because of our people living in congested, small houses.

My fear is that once the virus gets into those communities, we’ll see a similar situation with minority groups in overseas countries such as the U.S where African-American and Hispanic people are overrepresented in the number of deaths.

What other challenges are there?

From a political perspective, Pacific People represent 7% of the New Zealand population, therefore we should be asking for 7% of the resources.

We can learn a lot from our Māori population who have their own response system to COVID-19, but I guess it falls into the idea of equity.

Overall, I think there’s definitely a lot more work to be done such as providing more PPE gear into vulnerable communities, conducting more COVID-19 tests without the referral of a doctor and helping those with the most underlying conditions to not leave home.

This is where Pacific Health Plus is actively involved in.

What long-term impact does the pandemic have on the education sector?

COVID-19 will mean high levels of unemployment, many of which will affect Pasifika people.

My advice to our Pasifika people is this: Follow your dream by making informed decisions underpinned by finding your passion.

Use this time to retrain, upskill and look at future-focused sectors such as healthcare, technology, wellbeing, agriculture, aquaculture, manufacturing, imports and exports. Consider creating a small business or a start-up.

Don’t feel pressured into taking up careers that are seen as more favourable such as medicine or law and avoid being stereotyped into taking up apprenticeships or construction.

Many of these stereotypes are aimed to fill short-term labour market shortages.

Research where you can get the best education that suits your level of ambition and where you have the best conditions for you to succeed. Make the sacrifices for one of your biggest investments in life.

Last but not least, surround yourself with motivated, self-disciplined people who also want to optimise their opportunities.

Given that we have a close relationship with our Pacific neighbours, how can NZ support the Region?

We have to make sure we are in a good position ourselves first.

While we have the usual way of helping out the Pacific through aid and remittances, we must look at ways of efficiently distributing the funds.

Take for example the banks - here in New Zealand the banks play a huge part in this economic stimulation of getting our country back on its feet.

The New Zealand government has introduced another $30 billion into the banking system to assist households, mortgage holders and businesses.

That’s what Pacific island countries need but they need it on an on-going basis.

It would be ideal if a large portion of funds goes towards banks in those countries to help stimulate their economy.

That’s how we can help our Pacific brothers and sisters and their businesses and households.

PCF Board Trustee Fiso John Fiso ONZM has extensive governance and management experience in education, health and economic development sectors. He has served as chairman of the Independent Tertiary Education Providers of NZ (ITENZ) and on the boards of Pacific Cooperation Foundation, Ako Aotearoa, Volleyball NZ, and the Pacific Business Trust.

John was awarded the NZ Order of Merit for services to sport, education and the Pasifika community and was named Wellingtonian of the Year for services to education in 2016.

John founded the NZ Institute of Sport, a three-tier education institute with foundation, vocational and graduate programmes. He is also the chairman of Pacific Health Plus, the only Pacific healthcare provider in Porirua, and is passionate about improving access to medical services, bringing greater accountability and positive change to the health sector.

First image: Fiso John Fiso ONZM during his tenacity as CEO of New Zealand Institute of Sport (NZIS)

Second image: Fiso John Fiso delivering his remarks at Pacific Health Plus where they launched the Pacific Research Centre of Excellence in April 2019.