Today I attended a Pasifika live debate co-hosted by the Auckland City Council Development and Safety Committee and the Pacific Peoples Panel that I’m privileged to be a member of.

It was held at the Western Springs Community Hall and started at 10.30 am with many interested parties in attendance.

The moot or topic of debate was: (that) Auckland is the best place for Pasifika people to live and there were six people in the panel who argued for and against the statement.

The areas that the debaters were asked to focus their discussions on were three of the topic titles of the Auckland City Councils 10 year plan of: affordable housing, belonging and

It was really interesting because there were a mix of views on the affirmative (agreeing) team: a Fijian Indian economist who had argued that affordable housing posed an opportunity for Auckland Council to look at different models of making this possible (as in his authored book); his Cook Islands team debater discussed how her grandfather saw opportunities of living in various well to do suburbs giving his two granddaughters the opportunities to go to higher decile schools; and the final speaker was a seasoned Samoan debater who was able to tell her story of living in South Auckland and going to University despite many adversities. She discussed many neat things about living in Auckland from a strengths-based basis and that the adversities built resilience within our communities.

The negative team’s first speaker is Samoan and a member of our Pacific Panel and spoke about how difficult it was to buy a house in Auckland although he was an accountant and that it was the opportunity for him to go to Switzerland that gave him the opportunity to buy a house. He also had a lot of stats that demonstrated that Pasifika people were struggling with gaining affordable housing; the second speaker was Fijian and further added about the difficulties that Pasifika people would continue to have in living in Auckland and the final speaker was Samoan and discussed that there were many different opportunities outside of Auckland like going to University in Otago and living overseas that provided other places that Pasifika people were moving too as a result of Auckland no longer being a viable place for affordable housing.

The adjudicator or rather the chair of debate was of Samoan descent a speaker of te reo Maori (language) and is a seasoned speaker and debater who was formerly a Pacific Panel member but took the opportunity to work within Auckland Council. He kept the audience laughing with his anecdotes and point scoring (or the lack thereof) and that allowed what could have been a very serious discussion, a very Pasifika flavour that allowed us to reflect upon the seriousness of the issues but also to be aware that we were in a warm cordial environment.

In the end, both sides won although most would have said that the affirmative team won due to Auckland being having the largest concentration of Pasifika people in the world (in Auckland city) and that Pasifika people had voted with their feet (as the first speaker of the affirmative discussed).

For me, it highlighted the diversity of Pasifika peoples’ perspectives with knowledge that some Pasifika people were succeeding in various areas but by far many were not and it is with this in mind that many are working hard to challenge the inequities in various spaces and to discuss and plan for the future ahead of us for a growing population of Pasifika people in Auckland.

There is so much more to be said but that is for future conversations. Suffice to say that it was a hearty debate that had many people talking, with a buzz that continued into the lunch served afterwards and a lot for Auckland City Council Representatives to consider for Pasifika peoples futures …

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