Within the space of one or two generations, the population of Pacific people in New Zealand has grown to over 200,000 and undergone a very rapid transformation from isolated agrarian, subsistence-level communities in the island Pacific to a predominantly urban, wage-based society not fully integrated into national life, with a significant proportion of its membership not fully connected to their ancestral roots, and with a sense of marginalisation from wider Pakeha-led society. That these social, economic and cultural issues will resolve themselves without planning and direct intervention is unlikely.

In bringing young Pacific leaders together, the conference will encourage the discussion of common issues facing them. Such discussions will not only promote understanding necessary to a solution, but also establish personal contacts between Pacific communities and in varied socio-economic circumstances. This is expected to facilitate cooperation towards future effective action.

The proposed YPLC, by promoting leadership skills amongst young people and encouraging the inter-generational transfer of leadership skills, will by its very nature, address many of the issues associated with community capacity building, a major programme in the Government's pacific and ethnic affairs policies.

The 2006 Young Pacific Leaders’ Conference

This YPLC will comprise of about 200 young leaders either self-nominated or chosen by existing community organizations, churches and employers. Generally they will be between 20 and 40 years of age and have already demonstrated some leadership potential.

A group of successful young Pacific people drawn from many fields, has been constituted to develop appropriate protocols and advise on programme content.

Background data papers will be prepared by selected official participants on salient topics such as ‘what communities expect of their leaders’, ‘how leadership can be nurtured and developed within Pacific communities’, ‘language change and survival’, ‘Pacific identities’, ‘the value of ethnic diversity to Aotearoa’, ‘promoting leadership and control by Pacific people in critical social areas such as education, employment, health, housing, justice’.

The two-day conference will enable participants to share their views through group discussions and informal meeting and talking on the many agenda topics. Elders and community leaders will be present as observers and advisors where appropriate.

 Delegates while nominated by various organisations, will not represent them per se. They will be encouraged to report on their participation to others and will be further encouraged to organise and participate in further YPLC’s on similar themes, thereby widening public awareness and understanding of the various issues covered. There will be a complete report of the main proceedings.

 Origins of Young Leaders’ Conferences

Four Young Maori Leaders’ Conferences were held last century in 1939, 1959, 1970, and 1977.   The first was initiated after the Institute of Pacific Relations had met at Yosemite in 1936. Subsequently leaders discussed the desirability of holding such a conference for young Maori. It was organised through the National Council for Adult Education.

 The agenda for that first YMLC in 1939 covered economic conditions, (including land resources and land use, work other than farming, and finance), housing and the home, health, community and education. Back then, it was thought that free discussion would  bring home the importance and generality of the problems, providing incentives to  exercise leadership. Such a demonstration of their capacity to discuss problematic conditions with sincerity and intelligence, might encourage older generations to assist them and give them scope for the development and exercise of their talents.

 Following the tradition begun in 1939 and after a hiatus of 23 years, there have been three YMLC this century, (2001, 2003 and 2005) and high expectations of biennial conferences in the future. The success of the Young Maori Leaders’ Conferences this century has resulted in the F.I.R.S.T. Foundation being approached by some young Pacific leaders who have seen the synergies, similarities and the differences in Maori and Pacific peoples’ experiences in New Zealand and asked F.I.R.S.T. to host a similar Pasifika event.

What is Envisioned?

Contacts and the exchange of ideas between people who are beginning to assume leadership roles will facilitate the search for solutions and cooperation towards effective future action. There is no doubt that there are substantial leadership skills in hand, it seems an ideal time and action to bring these nascent leaders together now, as they are the inheritors of future leadership roles not just in Pacific communities but also in national society. These young leaders are members of a ‘browning population’ and labour force, and particularly in the Auckland urban area, most live in areas where they already constitute a significant proportion of local populations and communities.

 Migrant and urban adjustment figure highly in Pacific experience in New Zealand. So too does the viability of decreasing home populations beset by continued out-migration. More than half of all Pacific people are now urbanized, and this transformation has parallels with Maori, - low incomes, poor education, housing and health, high unemployment and imprisonment, and decline in the use of their parental and ancestral languages.   To these geographically-orientated island to urban issues have been added others which relate to identity, Pan-Polynesian solidarity, social dislocation, poverty, and the widely held perception of yawning gaps in access and attainment levels between Maori and Pacific people and main-stream New Zealand.

 Nonetheless as you will be aware, Pacific communities are more diverse than ever before. There is a wider range of vocational and social skills, expertise, and experienced life-styles held by young Pacific people now than ever before, and from which potential participants in the proposed 2006 YPLC will be drawn. Generational, experiential and ideological differences have emerged, even though the Pacific population is still heavily loaded towards the youth, - half of them are aged under 21 years. 

To ensure wide representation, key organisations throughout New Zealand have been invited to nominate delegates to attend the conference. Besides the involvement of relevant government ministries, participants from community organisations will bring together a wide cross-section of young men and women to discuss action-plans for  New Zealand’s Pacific peoples. Inviting Government agencies to nominate too will broaden the community’s understanding of this conference and its potential value for all New Zealanders.