Return to Guide contents page Search site using keywords Using the DecisionMaker Guide site Places on the web that interest us
Order your copy of the Guide or other DecisionMaker publications
A directory of Government agencies
Exercises and worksheets for highschool students
DecisionMaker quarterlies
Link to How the law works
Link to DecisionMaker guides Link to DecisionMaker directories

Search in DecisionMaker


Pacific citizens: Though 50 years ago there was not much contact ...

Pacific Cooperation Foundation: Just as the Asia 2000 Foundation was ...

Tackling Pacific Island problems from within the Parliament: Strategic thinking about ...

The agenda: THEN: Social issues were important ...

Improving partnership: There is a need to revive the Pacific Islands ...

Tackling blindness among Pacific peoples: Tongan public health specialist ...

HIV AIDS - moral and medical solutions: Public health and other policy planners...

Tongan job solution: Managed employment is a Tongan New Zealander's private ...

The new tertiary landscape - what's in it for Pacific peoples?: Education is ...

Making good citizens: In our Pacific region, and elsewhere in the world ...

Involving Pacific peoples in local decisionmaking: The question all New Zealand ...

Tangata Pasifika? Michael Powles, who has worked ...

Endorsing good governance: Former New Zealand career diplomat Gordon Schroff ...

Need not be conflict: Issues in Pacific governance - where one size does not ...

Cooperation wins: Greater regional cooperation on common issues might ...

APEC and PECC: Though New Zealand seeks to be a good international ...

Advocacy on market access: The Pacific Islands Trade and Investment ...

Being Pa'alagi: The Being Pa'alagi programme, in which I looked back ...

Collaboration key to achieving vision: The vision of the Ministry of ...

Talk to all pacific cultures with one voice:
Ethnic Communications



Tackling Pacific Island problems from within the parliament

Taito Phillip Field, interviewed here by Anthony Haas, has a long commitment to conveying the Pacific’s important issues to the New Zealand Government.

Strategic thinking about particip-ation of Pacific migrants increased with the development of accountable Pacific Islands Advisory Councils in New Zealand, says Taito Phillip Field, the first Pacific person who served in such a council to get ministerial responsibility for domestic Pacific affairs.

Field was elected the first member of the New Zealand Parliament of Pacific Island descent at 42 and, in 2003, aged 51, became Minister of State and Associate Minister of Pacific Island Affairs, Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment and Associate Minister of Justice in the second Clark Labour Government.

Samoan, Cook Islands, Jewish American, German and perhaps English

Taito Phillip Field was born in Apia in 1952 of Samoan, Cook Islands, Jewish American, German and perhaps English descent.

Christian religion is strong with Taito Phillip Field, as it was both on his fathers’ and mothers’ side. It gave him “good grounding in the sense of fairness, morality and the sense of Christian values”.

His Jewish grandfather David Field came to Samoa as a Judge, two or three generations back, in the 1800s. The Cook Islands connection is to the Apai Framheim family – and to the Apai family which has Tahitian connections.

His German great grandfather was Emil Hans Helfritz, the grandmother who brought him up for his first seven and ½ years was Viola Helfritz Timoteo.
Taito Phillip Field is related to the first Samoan woman member of the New Zealand Parliament, Luamanuvao Winnie Laban. Her Jewish connection is to the Fruean family and the Zimmerman family, who, like David Field, took wives from Lefunga village – where the film “Return to Paradise” was later filmed.

Strict grandmother Viola had been married to a London Missionary Society (LMS) church minister, Timoteo. They had been missionaries to Tokelau in the earlier years before grandfather died. Taito’s father’s father was also a church minister of LMS and served as a missionary in Wallis, and Vanuatu.

Christianity was important to him in preparation once “I was plucked out of that village and put on quite a large ship, and carted off to New Zealand”.

Appalling situation

“ Migration to New Zealand from Samoa was absolutely appalling for me, because I was suddenly taken away from the only parent I knew, from someone I deeply loved. And from thereon in, not knowing anyone I came in contact with.”

He thinks his parents, who had been serving in the NZ Army in Malaya and settling in Wellington for much of his first seven and ½ years, wanted him in New Zealand for education. At seven and ½ , at the English speaking school in Linden, Wellington, and with three English speaking brothers he had a difficult time because he “could not speak a word of English”. His mother was in favour of not speaking Samoan – English had to be promoted to be better at school.

In 1959 there were not many Samoans in New Zealand, there was no other Samoan family in the street, let alone at school, with whom he could communicate.

“ Fa’a Samoa, the Samoan way, was really lost,” he recalled shortly after his appointment as Associate Minister for Pacific Affairs.

He recalls his aggressive reaction to other children who were cruel to him. He had interpreted other children as cheeky to him because of broken communication. He reacted physically in frustration.

“ It was total frustration in a foreign environment, when I could not get my views across”.

This problem made him determined to be as good as other children, in language and schoolwork.

He is thankful to one lady who took him under her wing to teach him English. She was a good teacher by giving concentrated effort – on the alphabet and how to speak English. That was a key. Slowly things improved. He feels he had caught up with English and other studies by secondary school.

Creating links

I first met Phillip Field, then in the Wellington Samoan Advisory Council, in 1973. At that time, I was working with Phil Amos, Minister of Education and Island Affairs, in the 1972-5 Kirk Labour Government to establish channels of communication between Pacific migrants and the New Zealand host society.
The Wellington Samoan Advisory Council began, as a result of my approach, to look at a link between community and government, and to advise on the needs of the community.

Field recalled in 2003 that pre-1972 he was gravitating towards the Wellington Samoan Advisory Council because, at that time in his life “I had totally lost the ability to speak fluent Samoan”.

Field attended one of the Advisory Council meetings because of his drive to learn the Samoan language, and seeking to familiarise himself with the Pacific community.

“ We saw it as a great opportunity for Pacific peoples and particularly Samoans because they had the larger numbers, as a vehicle for conveying to government important issues for the Pacific community at that time,” he recalled.

Credible leaders

It is always important, from the Samoan and Pacific perspective, that the people who were accepted as leaders and spokespeople were genuinely representative and accepted by the community, he says, explaining the desire at that time to have accountable representatives in the Advisory Councils.

“ Too often there is cynicism about how so-called Pacific leaders were determined. So the question of credible leaders being elected was important to the Pacific Islands community at that time.”

Needing a voice

One of the key issues concerning these early advisory councils was for government to establish a Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs.

“ There was also a move towards acknowledging there was a growth in unemployment and in hardships amongst the Pacific community. They felt there needed to be a voice. I think the community appreciated the initiative taken by Amos and the community, by and large, really supported the initiative of advisory councils,” he says.

Amos’ call was across the board; Field mentioned language, identity, employment, hardship. I asked him to flag the other issues the community wanted.

“ They wanted a voice,” he said.

“ There was a feeling we needed a voice inside where it counted. What came home to me was that there was no representation in the halls of power at that time. So there was a drive for representation in central and local government at that time.”

He says now the advisory councils were a step in the right direction.
“ They opened a link, and a voice for representation of those Pacific communities to government, as it was perceived at that time.”
There were also relationships to manage.

“ What was good for the Samoans was not necessarily good for all Pacific Islanders.”

Field says of the Advisory Council: “Among the Samoans it is a very strong concept. It is still perceived and accepted as the umbrella organisation for the Samoan communities.”

The advisory councils “achieved significant bringing together of the community and, more importantly, leaders. It was the beginning of strategic thinking. You have to give credit now that it has survived," he says.
Published 3rd qtr, 2003



Samoan chiefs in New Zealand supported – and expect NZ Samoan MP Taito Phillip Field’s support – in the 2003 Samoan presentation on their citizenship concerns at Parliament in Wellington.

Pacific Advisory Councils rate health highly – the eye-care message of sun glasses is one of the prevention messages for Pacific Islanders wherever they may be.

PHOTOGRAPH: Sandy Scheltema and the Fred Hollows Foundation.

Strategic Pacific thinking includes fostering access to affordable healthy foods

Affiliated programs Sitemap Privacy Accessibility Terms of use

Search powered by Google New Zealand W3C HTML Guidelines

Copyright © 2006 Asia Pacific Economic News Ltd. All rights reserved. Users of the Guide are free to make copies or entire pages for personal or educational use, but not for commercial purposes. Copies of individual photos or ilustrations may not be made without the permission of the copyright holders. Use of this website signifies your agreement to the Terms of Use.