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Plan for Pacific representation at NZ Rugby table hailed

Pasifika Advisory Group co-chair Tauanu’u Nick Bakulich says the proposal gives way for Pacific people at the decision making level.

Matt Manukuo
Matt Manukuo
06 June 2024, 6:34pm
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“Going forward, we will always have a seat at the table.”

That's the sentiment of Pasifika Advisory Group co-chair Tauanu’u Nick Bakulich following discussions about Pacific people at the decision-making level of the sport in Aotearoa.

New Zealand Rugby launched its Pasifika strategy late last year, promising more representation off the field.

But in March, Tongan community leader Pakilau Manase Lua quit the NZRPAG citing a lack of Pasifika representation on the board.

Pakilau said the group had been treated like "performing monkeys", adding the plan was being completely ignored.

NZR met in Auckland last week to decide on the future structure of the body’s leadership.

Two proposals were put forward following a report that revealed NZR’s structure was ‘not fit for purpose’.

A proposal was agreed which sees Pacific officials secure a place on the NZR board.

Tauanu’u Nick Bakulich says the news is “intergenerational”.

“Someone put it quite well, this is an intergenerational decision. This is now written into the rules of New Zealand Rugby, it’s part of the constitution," he told Pacific Mornings' William Terite.

“Going forward we will always have a seat at the table.”

Of the two proposals put forward, only one supported Pasifika into governance roles, he said.

“We examined and analysed both proposals, and let’s just say when the initial proposal came out - we didn’t see Pasifika in the documents. Whilst there was work done on it, it still wasn’t strong enough,” he said.

“We then presented ourselves to the Provincial Union representatives putting forward our submission as to why we thought Pasifika should be at the table, and in other key decision-making parts at New Zealand Rugby.”

Several voices including the NZR Players Association disagreed with having Proposal Two go ahead, which Tauanu’u said created unnecessary tension.

“We’re under no illusions there’s been disunity, it’s been played in the media. Some of the thoughts in regards to the two proposals, and the criticism in proposal two, was the provincial unions would have this power and have a big say.

“But our analysis of that, the composition of the board, if there are nine people and six are appointed independently and three come through the provincial union channels, I don’t know how that translates to the provincial unions having a big say.

Pakilau Manase Lua quit the NZR Pasifika Advisory Group in March. Photo/supplied

“Our view now is that we want to be part of the solution bringing everyone together. We’ve got some big work to do.”

NZR has been going through reforms after a scathing review of its governance, which called for Pasifika representation on its board as soon as possible.

Tauanu’u said the “in-depth” submission put forward to the provincial unions highlighted more than 100 years of service to the rugby community, as well as data on the high-performance levels that showed a significant number of Pasifika athletes.

Following the news that proposal two was voted in, Tauanu’u welcomed it saying it was good for Pasifika rugby moving forward.

“It means Pasifika will feature in other parts including the appointments panel, remuneration panel where really key decisions are made,” he said.

“[It’s] where Pasifika can offer our view and insight around what should be considered, given our very big population that plays rugby.

“I think for our Pasifika community, not only can we see ourselves on the field, but now see ourselves at the highest levels of governance in our national game.”