Aupito William Sio at the government's Dawn Raids Apology in 2021.
Photo / Supplied/ RNZ / Marika Khabazi
Aupito William Sio suspects budget and staffing cuts for Ministry for Pacific Peoples by incoming government
Long-serving former Labour MP Aupito William Sio warns staffing cuts right across the public sector are likely with the incoming government, including the Ministry for Pacific Peoples.
Aupito, a former Minister for Pacific Peoples, was asked on 531pi’s Pacific Mornings whether the incoming National-led government would introduce cuts at MPP to appease their coalition partner ACT NZ.
Watch the full interview below:
Aupito suspects that cuts to the MPP budget and staffing are likely and that the public service generally is “pretty nervous”.
The National Party says it has no plans to scrap the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP), but the ACT Party has a policy of abolishing MPP and a number of other agencies.
Aupito says: “Throughout the debate, the tax cut (proposed by National and ACT), those translate into cuts into staffing but of course when you’re cutting staffing, who's going to do the work?
“I think we’ve just got to watch this space, make sure we have a voice around ensuring that we’re protecting not only the public service and the services they deliver, but the things that are important to our Pacific community like the Pacific wellbeing strategy, like the Pacific education plan and the Pacific health plan,” he says.
Aupito is concerned if current services being delivered for the benefit of Pacific peoples are dismantled, “it means no one's going to pay attention to what happens to our communities”.
Winston keeps his word
However, Aupito is hopeful that Winston Peters and the National Party will bring “maturity and intelligence in the debate” against ACT’s David Seymour, who has been vocal on scrapping MPP.
With the likelihood of a National, ACT and New Zealand First coalition on the horizon, and no Pacific MP representation in sight, Aupito poses the question - who’s going to pay attention to the affairs of Pacific people?
“If you don’t have somebody that knows our communities then you’re not going to pay attention to it. If they do get advice which is important - getting that advice and lived experience are two different things.”
Dr Shane Reti, who is the National Party’s Pacific spokesperson, is highlighted as another ally: “He’s well aware of the good work MPP has done” as well as “kingmaker” Winston Peters.
“I’m hopeful that Winston Peters of New Zealand First knows our communities well. He’s respectful, and is a matai. [He’ll] bring some common sense to the government and hopefully air issues relevant to Pacific people.”
Aupito says both Reti and Peters have a track record of being keen supporters, getting money into the regions of Pacific communities and making sure there was a focus on the Pacific region.
“One thing about Winston - he keeps his word.”
In the lead up to the 2026 election, Aupito believes the main parties will need to do better to avoid issues of Pacific representation again.
“Labour and National are going to have to rethink what they do to ensure there's diversity throughout their parties as well as Pacific representation.”
Lurch to the centre
Responding to the question of Labour’s lurch to the centre, straying from their working class support base in their latest campaign, Aupito says it’s unfortunate that political parties tend to look towards the centre vote during a general election.
“These are the potential grouping of people (voters) who are looking to see what's in it for them.
“Unfortunately when you do that, there is a tendency for your core supporters (to ask) why are you looking at them when we’ve been loyal to you? What’s in it for us?
“There's some truth in that feeling but I think it’s unfair when Labour has delivered certain things and they didn’t tell that story enough. And the core supporters felt left out perhaps.”
He says as a government, Labour were trying to be a “government for all New Zealanders” but not enough was done to defend their wins and what they had delivered on.
“You have to look at what Labour did for increases to the minimum wage, increases to the pension fund, support for single families and the support for young people in education. The problem is, once you’ve delivered certain things, people want more.”
He said the announcement of an immigration amnesty only weeks before the election did send “a bad signal” to the Pacific community, that it was a policy that was “so little, so late” when it was a commitment made during the dawn raids apology.
“The feedback I was getting from our communities was essentially ‘we’re not dumb, you’ve left this so last ’... and so I think people just didn’t believe that was genuine.”