Collective calls for system changes to NZ sporting sector

Left to right: Likau Alatini, Pita Alatini, Jerome Mika, Caroline Matamu and Duane Mann, at NZ Parliament building in Wellington in June 2022

A newly formed pacific sports collective is calling for change to New Zealand’s sporting sector to better serve Pacific peoples and South Auckland communities. 

Vai o Hawaiki is made up of pacific community sports administrators, champions and sporting legends who have banded together to support and influence system change for pacific peoples and South Auckland communities.  

Supporters include some of New Zealand’s favourite sporting sons and daughters including La’auli Sir Michael Jones, Dame Valerie Adams, Ruben Wiki, Linda Vagana as well as community champions such as Fole Finau (Waka Ama), Manu Fotu (Basketball) and Tauanu’u Nick Bakulich (Rugby). 

The collective was formed in June 2022 and is focused on three key focus areas: advocating for equity, increasing accessibility, and creating and influencing positive systems change in movement and sport and the prevention of chronic disease through reducing risk factors for major health loss and inequity. 

Vai o Haiwaiki met with members of the Labour Pāsifika Caucus in Parliament in late June to present its views on the in-equitable funding distribution model of Sport New Zealand, as well present its case for a South Auckland pasifika sports village. 

Caroline Matamua, chair of Vai o Hawaiki, is a current member of Tonga Women’s National Rugby League board and has been involved in sport for 25 years as a player, coach, and/or administrator at community and international level. 

We need significant change in the sports sector to provide real opportunities for Pacific families to participate in community sport and live active healthy lives,” she says. 

“Vai o Hawaiki’s support comes from some of the finest Pacific athletes that have graced the court or sporting fields for New Zealand. The wide pool of knowledge that we can draw from indicates that they see a real need and want to help.” 

“One area that we can help is advocate for equitable funding from Sport NZ for Pacific peoples and South Auckland communities. We can’t be expected to continue to produce the best talent in the country from communities that are insufficiently unsupported. We know this doesn’t work because this current system has been failing us for several years. Vai ‘o Hawaiki makes this change,” she says.  

Pita Alatini, Lead System Innovator, Healthy Families South Auckland (The Cause Collective), is supporting the efforts of Vai O Hawaiki by convening the regular meetings together and reaching out to local, regional, national networks as well as central government. 

He is excited about Vai o Hawaiki’s ability to advocate for change in movement and sport, having experienced life as both Director of Rugby at Pakuranga Rugby Football and professional athlete as an All Black. 

“Vai o Hawaiki is a gamechanger as we’re bringing together Pacific peoples that are involved in sport and play  – administrators, players, coaches – to create a movement that uplifts the voices of our communities who we believe are underserved by the New Zealand sporting sector,” he says. 

“At community-level, we know that many community groups find it extremely difficult and rigid to apply for funding intended for grassroots, so they just give up. That means our children miss out on opportunities to get better equipped and skilled.” 

Duane Mann, Strategic Relationships Manager of Healthy Families South Auckland (The Cause Collective), and former Kiwis and Tonga Rugby League captain is adamant that funders need to change their behaviour and mindset to funding. 

“The policies and practice of Sport NZ and the sporting sector need to change to cater for Pacific people and South Auckland. It’s got to include Pasifika voices at the decision-making table so that they can meet the real needs of the community,” he says. 

“The concept of a “sports village” in South Auckland is an exciting opportunity to create a cultural and sports hub in South Auckland, where New Zealand’s largest Pasifika population resides and is readily accessible.”  

Vai o Hawaiki’s literal meaning is Water of Hawaiki, meaning the waters of Hawaiki, the ancestral homeland of Polynesians before they dispersed across the Pacific Ocean. The group meets every fortnight online or in-person and is open to people joining them for their regular activities. 

For more information about Vai o Hawaiki, contact Pita Alatini, [email protected]