MP takes up PI port­fo­lio

Central Leader - - NEWS - By KARINA ABADIA

BE­COM­ING the first Pa­cific Is­land Na­tional MP is an hon­our for Pe­seta Sam Lo­tuIiga.

It’s just the op­por­tu­nity he needs to help raise achieve­ment lev­els among Pa­cific Is­land stu­dents, he says.

The MP for Maun­gakiekie was made a Min­is­ter out­side of Cab­i­net with the roles of Min­is­ter of Pa­cific Is­land Af­fairs and As­so­ci­ate Min­is­ter of Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment on Jan­uary 28 in a cer­e­mony that was a real fam­ily af­fair, the One­hunga man says.

‘‘The only thing that tinged the day was not hav­ing my fa­ther there. He was a real in­spi­ra­tion and big part of my life but he passed away in Novem­ber.’’

His fa­ther prob­a­bly would have cried tears of joy be­cause he was a very emo­tional and hum­ble man, Mr Lotu-Iiga says.

The fam­ily came from Samoa to Auck­land in 1974.

Mr Lotu-Iiga lived with his par­ents, two sis­ters and brother in a three-bed­room house in Man­gere and says they were sel­dom alone.

‘‘There were of­ten 15 or 16 peo­ple liv­ing there. My par­ents helped rel­a­tives who em­i­grated. Then when they got on their own feet they went out and found their own place.’’

They were times, he says.

re­ally

good

‘‘We were like any other New Zealand fam­ily. We played cricket, rugby and bull­rush in the back­yard. We just hap­pened to be a mi­grant fam­ily from Samoa.’’

Mr Lotu-Iiga at­tended Man­gere Cen­tral and Auck­land Gram­mar schools be­fore study­ing law and com­merce at the Univer­sity of Auck­land.

He later worked at law firm Rus­sell McVeagh as a so­lic­i­tor be­fore mov­ing to Lon­don then Syd­ney to work in fi­nance.

He has been the MP for Maun­gakiekie since 2008 and has a lot to thank his par­ents for when it comes to his ca­reer, he says.

His fa­ther, who was one of his he­roes, was largely un­e­d­u­cated but de­ter­mined his chil­dren would be able to pur­sue their ed­u­ca­tion.

Mr Lotu-Iiga would like to use his min­is­te­rial po­si­tion to make sure all chil­dren have that choice.

‘‘I want to see kids have the same op­por­tu­ni­ties as I did for ed­u­ca­tion, per­sonal de­vel­op­ment and to re­alise their dreams and as­pi­ra­tions.’’

Tech­nol­ogy has brought with it huge de­vel­op­ments in ed­u­ca­tion and chil­dren in lower decile schools should not be dis­ad­van­taged as a re­sult, he says.

‘‘It’s so im­por­tant we get broad­band into schools and that’s al­ready hap­pen­ing. That’s also why it’s im­por­tant to get broad­band into homes.’’

Ev­ery child has a gift or tal­ent but not all of them will be aca­demic.

Recog­ni­tion of that fact has led to greater study choices in­clud­ing trades and ser­vices acad­e­mies at schools in the ward, he says.

‘‘I think in­creas­ingly we are go­ing to see the in­volve­ment of in­dus­try groups in­side some schools.

‘‘It’s a con­tro­ver­sial thing but if it means a kid is go­ing to get a job on a Fletcher Con­struc­tion site I’m happy for that to hap­pen.’’

Some ar­gue there are in­sti­tu­tional bar­ri­ers to Pa­cific Is­lan­ders achiev­ing in the school sys­tem, but Mr Lotu-Iiga dis­agrees.

‘‘I think peo­ple are by and large treated on their mer­its and abil­i­ties. Be­ing a Pa­cific Is­lan­der in New Zealand isn’t a bar­rier to suc­ceed­ing in life.’’

Photo: KARINA ABADIA

New ap­point­ment: MP for Maun­gakiekie Pe­seta Sam Lotu-Iiga plans to use his ap­point­ment as Min­is­ter of Pa­cific Is­land Af­fairs to im­prove ed­u­ca­tional achieve­ment lev­els and em­ploy­ment rates among Pa­cific Is­lan­ders.

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