Finding Pacific solutions to Pacific problems
11 Jul 2024

Finding Pacific solutions to Pacific problems


Never has it been more important for Pacific leaders to have a voice in international and Aotearoa New Zealand affairs.

There are plenty of Pacific issues needing Pacific voices to mitigate conflict and facilitate solutions to today’s pressing problems.

Take the situation in New Caledonia, riven by serious conflict but many of us lack the necessary contextual cultural information to understand why it is happening. It took Henry Puna, secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum, to explain to non-Pacific people the root cause of the present unrest.

As secretary-general Puna explained, the third and final vote under the Noumēa accord was conducted in 2021 when, according to Kanak custom, the indegenous population was in post-Covid mourning for one year. They boycotted the vote because it was disrespectful to Pacific tradition and practice.

The Forum is offering to mediate between the Kanak people and French Government because, as the Pacific’s top diplomat pointed out, talanoa is the Pacific way to resolving conflict.

I have just returned from the 4th Pacific Ocean Climate Change Conference in Apia, Samoa, an important engagement mission for the Pacific Business Trust.

Climate change is the existential threat to the Pacific community, as well as posing a commercial risk to many of the 2281 Pacific owned businesses we support as Aotearoa New Zealand’s Pacific economic development agency.

Sectors such as hospitality and tourism, big employers in the Pacific economy, must prepare for the evolving risks now.

We have a big part to play. The stakes are high and it is imperative Pacific voices are front and centre of the debate and in the provision of solutions. Talanoa is the key, as are relationships.

I was at the conference at the invitation of Victoria University Assistant Vice Chancellor Dame Luamanuvao Winnie Laban where I connected with leaders such as Lita Lui, chief executive of Samoa Chamber of Commerce (SCCI) and Tagaloa Eddie Lotasi Wilson from Wilex Samoa and former head of the Samoa Association of Manufacturers and Exporters.

These are some of the leaders who will help us to find new pathways to prosperity and mitigate the problems facing our people and endangering our economies.

Elsewhere, the Recognised Seasonal Workers scheme (RSE) is a broadly popular labour mobility programme that brings thousands of Pacific workers to Aotearoa New Zealand each year. It assists labour-poor sectors such as horticulture and agriculture, upskills workers from across the Pacific region and provides an important source of foreign exchange earnings for Island economies.

Yet the success factors of this programme often create change which result in economic imbalance, in this case depriving Pacific economies of skilled labour. While these are a consequence of growth, they can be addressed in talanoa dialogue with Pacific communities.

To talanoa is the Blue Pacific way. We gather, we ask, we listen, we consult, we respond. Our relationships and talanoa chart a win-win course for us all, as long as our Pacific communities have a voice at the table.

Mary Los’e is the chief executive of Pacific Business Trust, New Zealand’s Pacific economic development agency supporting nearly 2,300 Pacific businesses that generate more than $300 million in annual revenue


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About the Author


Mary Los'e


Mary is proud of her Tongan and Māori ancestry, from Ngāti Rereahu ki Ngāti Maniapoto and the villages of Ha’ano, Foa and Faleloa, Ha’apai. Prior to joining PBT, Mary worked in the health sector as the Chief Service Experience Officer for National Telehealth Services, Whakarongorau Aotearoa, where she led the community co-design and delivery of the Pacific and Māori Telehealth pathways to meet the needs of communities during the resurgence of Covid-19. Mary brings extensive private and public sector experience to her role that she will utilise to drive a work programme to deliver for Pacific businesses and communities. She has worked with the Ministry for Pacific Peoples, Housing New Zealand (now Kāinga Ora), the Bank of New Zealand’s Innovation Unit and New Zealand Magazines. Mary has a Master of Business Administration from the University of Auckland.


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