Local elections are being held via postal vote all over New Zealand from September 20 until October 12. Lei Shi has profiled four Pasifika candidates in the Auckland elections. Today’s candidate is James Papali’i from the Mana Party, who is standing for the Mangere Board elections, which coincide with the mayoral, council and the district health board elections.
Report – By Lei Shi
James Papali’i does not believe the super-city gives a one-size fits-all solution.
He wants local policies to focus on putting people in his local community back on track.
Speaking to Pacific Scoop, he criticises the lack of Auckland Council’s resourcing and wants to challenge the Council’s policies.
From a distance, James Papali’i reminds me of those Bob Marley’s posters, with his thick beard and reggae hair-style.
“I’ve been in politics since 1998. My dad got me in politics; he was working for David Lange’s government.
“I was with the Labour Party, but I left in 2011 just before the elections because I didn’t like some of their changes,” he says.
No other than Mana Party founder Hone Harawira asked Papali’i to join Mana.
“So I took up the challenge, now I’m with Mana. I got very low votes because Mana was not known to many people, but I didn’t care.
“I think Mana is like what Labour used to be, the David Lange’s Labour. I believe Mana has some really good policies that this country needs,” he says.
“There are also environmental issues; the Len Brown’s Council is looking at putting a big sewage pipe from Auckland into our Manukau. That’s a pressing issue for Mangere and Manukau harbour.”
Because of increasing urbanisation, Papali’i argues, Pasifika and Māori peoples’ traditions as “sea-voyagers” are being lost.
“As a community leader, I believe in opening up the waterways. I am very passionate about waka ama. If you look at Otara, Mangere, Manurewa, the waterways are blocked off.”
Samoan and Irish background
Papali’i’s father is Samoan and his mother Irish. “I have a stronger feeling for my Samoan identity, but not as much for my Irish side.”
He likes taro, raw fish – the island food. He also likes pork bones and Māori food, but he gives this advice: don’t eat too much of that.
When talking about his vision for his community and its place within the super-city, there is no blocked-off ways to stop the flow of discontent and frustration.
“The Auckland super-city wasn’t something I saw as a vision, but we are stuck in it now. The city’s house prices are now ridiculous for anyone to afford.”
Papali’i says that Auckland has “no connection” to the Pacific and Māori people of the city.
“There are not enough resources going into localised events. There’s a long way before we can say an Auckland City and to think regional. I don’t see that at the moment.
“We need first to get our local communities right. A super-city is not a vision that I had in the first place.”
Papali’i says that for him to be interested in the super-city, Mangere Board has to be resourced properly.
“We are not getting any help from the Auckland City, for a small project in Mangere Bridge to build a waka ama club. We’ve had no assistance from Auckland City whatsoever, even from our local board we didn’t get resources.
“They only gave us the approval to build there, so I’m not feeling much about the super-city. I actually walked in the protest against the super-city. To me, it’s rubbish.”
On almost all other occasions, there would at least be one proud Aucklander to step out and rebut these words, but today there are only ducks and pigeons round, and they do not seem to care at all.
“The voters are looking for some leadership and we need also to get young people involved in decision-making. This local board has been quiet in a lot of areas.
He says there are not enough people that fight for issues like poverty and youth in Mangere.
“They need real leadership. The board can’t just say yes to the Council, when really they should be challenging the Council and listen to what the community demands. The last two terms, they’ve done stuff-all.”
Life as a paddler
Papali’i is a very sporty person. He plays rugby for Manukau, and used to be a boxer and won two Auckland championships in his heydays.
He is also a paddler and has a passion for waka ama.
“Next year if I get to Rio de Janeiro, it will be my 10th world waka ama champs. My kids come with me and they paddle as well.”
It is all about teamwork, but how is he planning to get his community paddle forward this time?
“My life experience means I’ve got something to offer. I’ve worked in social services. There are so many success stories. It’s all about empowering people. I grew up in Mangere, and it’s good to work in the area that you grew up.”
Papali’i has a postgraduate diploma in social policy from Massey University, and has worked as a lecturer at the University of Auckland.
“That was a good experience, and I covered lots of topics such as poverty, community development and indigenous issues. All the things that I’m passionate about I was able to lecture, and I was able to give a different account of social work.
“A Pacific model of how social work works, rather than a white middle class type theory of social work. The lectures that come from one’s life experience are immense.”
He says social policy is about the impacts to those who have been marginalised, as a result of dominant culture and policies; and policy-makers need to focus on how to reverse that negative impact so people can live a better life.
As all better life happens when politics is left at doorstep, Papali’i’s time of fun is no exception.
“I have a passion for cars. I’ve got my dad’s car from America. It’s a left-hand Chrysler Fifth Avenue V8. I’m in the process of restoring that car.
“I’ve got a Holden Rodeo Ute, so I can put all the paddles at the back and tow canoes. I also have a Harley-Davidson since 1991, it’s an old Harley, and I used to take it out for road trips. That’s the way to travel.”
Lei Shi is a Graduate Diploma in Pacific Journalism student at AUT University writing for Pacific Scoop.