Gisborne provides a warm welcome to Pacific People

Posted 14/10/2015

Like many migrants, Pauli Maafu was happy to move from town to town to secure work when he first arrived in New Zealand from Tonga (Kolovai in Tongatapu) in the 1970s.

Pauli (pictured right) was a butcher and began employment at the freezing works in Palmerston North, followed by Masterton, then Napier. Pauli decided to head to Gisborne, three hours north-west of Napier, for a holiday.

He was pleasantly surprised to find a number of Tongans in Gisborne doing seasonal fruit work, and found employment at the local Kaiti freezing works in 1981.

“I liked Gisborne as soon as I came here,” he recalls.

“The weather was good and the people were friendly.”

Gisborne was the perfect place for Pauli to be active in the city’s Pacific community. With Sia Nia Nia, he founded the Pacific Islanders' Community Trust (PICT), Aere Tai’s Gisborne Provider, in 1989.

PICT’s initial task was to assist with immigration issues and find sustainable employment for Pacific people coming into the region. The Trust purchased a property in Palmerston Road in Gisborne, which it still operates from today.

The premises has enabled them to provide a range of social services including fanau support, addiction counselling, budgeting, primary health promotions, free health check days, family violence workshops, older people's programmes, family and youth education, quarterly immigration workshops, information and advocacy.

The venue is open for community to gather regularly, and the Trust also organises special events which bring the whole Pacific community together.

“It has been a real asset because our premises are open to all Pacific people,” says Pauli.

Today PICT employs an administrator and a family support worker, who provide services and support to Pacific families in need. They also refer community on to other services and government agencies depending on what is needed.

Pauli remains active and is Deputy Chair of the Trust.

A recent addition has been fellow Tongan Simote Taunga, a Minister for the Methodist Church, who transferred from Manurewa in South Auckland three years ago.

“Like Pauli, I was pleasantly surprised when I came to Gisborne,” says Simote.

“There’s a real friendliness and willingness to help newcomers when they arrive. Having this home as a base where everyone is welcome means our people will always have a good place to come to.

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Pacific Islanders' Community Trust (Tairawhiti)

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