Pasifika Green MP, advocates for RSE workers, overstayers, education, and languages

Pacific Peoples spokesperson for the Green Party, List MP Teanau Tuiono, says bi-lingual education for Pasifika languages, Recognised Seasonal Employers scheme workers rights, and advocating for families/whanau overstayers are some of the key areas he is keen to focus on during his time in Parliament.

Teanau who hails from Ngāpuhi and Ngāi Takoto in the North and the island of Atiu in the Cook Islands, says he has always worked in grassroots politics. He has worked for the United Nations in Paris, sat on the board for Greenpeace, and was working in North Africa when approached to join the Green Party. Teanau says it was a natural fit.

The first term MP is spokesperson for Agriculture, Biosecurity, Education, Fisheries, Pacific Peoples, Regional Economic Development, Research Science and Innovation and Rural Communities. He is keen to explore how best to support Pasifika people coming from the islands who are not able to use their teaching qualification in New Zealand. He would also like to look at bi-lingual education for Pasifika languages.

“We need to find a way to make sure that their qualifications are recognised here and if they need a bit of upskilling that’s fine as well.”Teanau Tuiono

Turning his attention to workers rights, Teanau is mindful of the support needed for workers who are part of the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme. He wants to make sure Pasifika workers are not getting ripped off. He believes all workers should receive equal pay. “I think everybody should be on a living wage, the opportunity is to lift all boats, so I think that’s one thing I’m interested in advocating for.”

He would like to see an amnesty put in place for families/whanau who are overstayers. “It’s understanding that Aotearoa New Zealand has a long cultural and historical connection throughout the Pacific and it’s about the recognition of those relationships.”

Climate change remains a focal point for the Greens. He says everyone has a part to play, to bring down emissions, move out of fossil fuels, and make sure the transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy is sustainable. Teanau also notes COVID-19 did have some positives on the environment when people stopped flying, and gave people a chance to reflect on what is really important.

“We don’t need to be hyper consumers, especially the plastic stuff, which is terrible for the ocean. We don’t actually need it, it’s not good for us.” Teanau Tuiono

With Christmas approaching, he says now is the time to take a break and reflect on the year that was 2020.

PW asked the new MP his thoughts on what it means to have more Maori and Pasifika representatives in Parliament?

“I get asked this question a bit. They ask, what’s it like to be part of the most diverse parliament ever? And I’m like,  this is the only one I’ve been in, so it feels normal. I think what’s really important is, like, its the house of representatives and it should represent our communities and it’s good to see other people from the same backgrounds as me.” 

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