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Dr Shane Reti has been sworn in as the Minister of Health and Pacific Peoples

Photo/ Governor General Facebook


‘I will be your champion’ promises new Pacific Peoples’ minister

Dr Shane Reti on what he hopes to achieve as Minister for Pacific Peoples and health.

Khalia Strong
Khalia Strong
28 November 2023, 12:19pm
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The new Minister for Pacific Peoples promises to be a champion for the community.

Speaking to Levi Matautia-Morgan in his first interview since being sworn in, Dr Shane Reti started with a message of hope.

“What I would say to the Pasifika community is that I care, and that you have a minister who is senior in this government and that brings tools and levers that I will bring to this portfolio as well.”

Reti promises to focus on getting tangible outcomes for Pacific communities, and is serious about hearing from communities and what they want.

“I am your champion, I want to hear your voice and together, we will create a better life.

“I want people to look at my track record of being out at the front line, being out with people, over 30 years now, that’s what I’m known for, that’s what I’m good at.


“I’m very applied, so I want it to be an ongoing parallel process of; listening, doing, getting the doing better because you’ve listened better.”

From left: Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, Minister of Pacific Peoples Dr Shane Reti and Goveror General Dame Cindy Kiro at the official swearing in. Photo/Facebook

The National Party doesn’t have any MPs with Pacific heritage, which Dr Reti is conscious of.

“We acknowledge that we had other Pasifika candidates who weren't able to get over the line at this point who we might have liked to have had more of a lead role, but that wasn't the cards that the election gave us.

"So the Prime Minister said, 'Shane, I'd like you to pick up this portfolio. I want you to cherish it, I want you to grow it', and I was just really proud and privileged to be able to pick up that and add it alongside health."

Being sworn in as Minister of Health was likely for Reti, given his work as a family GP for 16 years, then serving on the Northland District Health Board for three terms.

Reti has been an MP since 2014 and has been the Pacific Peoples spokesperson on the opposition benches since 2021, and says he's excited about taking it up a notch at the ministerial-level.

“This portfolio has always lit me up - the colour, the aroha, I don’t know how to put it [but] in a hard day in Parliament, to think that I might have a focus or be a part of Pasifika, that lightens my soul and I just love being around the community."

Watch Dr Shane Reti's full interview on 531pi below:

Reti also took the opportunity to acknowledge the work of his predecessors from the Labour party; Aupito William Sio and Barbara Edmonds.

“Yes, they’ve been on the other side of the House, but I consider them friends as well as colleagues and I believe their contribution and service has been valuable, so thanks to them.”

Health outcomes a priority

Cabinet ministers are meeting at the Beehive this morning, and top of the agenda is planning for the next 100 days, where the Government will outline key priorities as it begins its three year term.

Reti says increasing the health workforce is the starting point of improving access to healthcare and outcomes.

“I can have great plans on the whiteboard and so on but if I don’t have people who can actually deliver it, then it won’t matter."

He also plans to work alongside community health providers like Fale Pasifika Te Taitokerau in improving vaccination rates against measles and human papillomavirus - HPV.

“I am adamant that we will lift our immunisation rates, not just across the whole country, but for Pasifika as well, so I want to work with providers and leaders and with people of faith.”

The incoming government has been criticised for scrapping some of the laws restricting tobacco sales. Reti sees it as a move that could reduce crime and demand for cigarettes on the black market, but says it's a decision he'll be watching closely.

“Vaping has been very effective in reducing the adult smoking rate, that was its purpose, but as a consequence of that it’s become somewhat of a gateway for youth towards nicotine and that was always flagged as a possibility when they were first introduced, but it’s probably magnified beyond what people thought would happen.”

Minister for Pacific Peoples Dr Shane Reti swears his oath of allegiance. Photo/Livestream screenshot

Community response

Former Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio says Reti supports Pacific communities, and brings indigenous understanding to the role.

“When he was the spokesperson, he was very, very much supportive of the work that MPP was doing and understood it from a te ao Māori perspective.”

But E Tū union campaigner Fala Haulangi is pessimistic about the new government, and says it’s up to Pacific communities to make their expectations clear.

“Politicians are politicians, they tell us one thing and they do something else, but holding them to account is very important.

“So it’s up to our community leaders now: call a meeting asap, let’s meet with Shane Reti and make it quite clear that these are things that we want you, as our new minister, to deliver on.”

Tongan community leader Pakilau Manase Lua hopes Reti exceeds expectations.

“I don’t know Shane Reti. He seems like a reasonable kind of person, he’s obviously very smart, he’s Māori, so I’m putting a little bit of hope there, but he’s gotta prove me wrong and prove the community wrong.”

Former National MP Fonoti Agnes Loheni congratulated Reti on his appointment, saying he will do well in both roles.

“I’ve got a chance to know him, and besides being super intelligent, he is a very considered and compassionate man, and he takes health very seriously.”

Watch a community panel on 531pi discussing the new Government: