This, the second Young Pacific Leaders’ Conference (YPLC) follows the inaugural conference at Parliament, Wellington in October 2006. But it is not a new phenomenon. In 1936 at an international symposium on Indigenous Peoples issues held in Yosemite, USA, the concept of planning leadership succession for the Indigenous Peoples was raised. A resolution of that conference proposed national young leadership conferences for that purpose.  In 1939 the first Young Maori Leaders’ Conference (YMLC) was held at Auckland University College under the direction of Sir Apirana Ngata. Other YMLC conferences were held in 1959, 1970 and 1977.  In 2001, after a hiatus of 26 years the Foundation for Indigenous Research and Technology (F.I.R.S.T.) revived leadership conferences. Four have been held; in 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2006, overall participation surpassed 1000.

 These early Pacific Island migrants adapted to a temperate climate and significantly different flora and fauna to become the Maori – tangata whenua, all the while maintaining the essential polynesian social structure of their tropical island homelands. Two hundred years ago, Europeans settlers (Pakeha) began to arrive and the changes they brought were profound. Maori became a minority in their own land, and Pakeha became the “naming” people  with power to determine not just their own futures but the futures of Maori as well. Until W.W.II, Maori were essentially rural dwellers but since then they have undergone another massive population change to become overwhelmingly urban dwellers and participants in fulltime wage labour and the money economy Not long after Maori rural to urban relocation began, a new wave of Pacific peoples began to arrive in Aotearoa and to undertake similar massive adjustments to an urban environment where they too were looked upon as minority people needing to adjust to Pakeha norms. The larger cities of Aotearoa were “invaded” by tangata whenua and tagata pasifika more or less simultaneously.

Maori are still a Pacific people, and many of the issues they confront in adjusting to urban life are very similar to those of their more recent Pasifika relations (whanaunga). Leadership succession is a case in point. Who will be the leaders of Aotearoa in another 50 years? What roles will Maori and Pasifika peoples play in determining the way their communities develop, and the way the coutry develops? Leadership training and preparation exists in all societies worldwide, but unless leadership is planned, there are no guarantees that those on whom leadership roles and responsibilities fall will be prepared to step up to the tasks that face them.

Like earlier and contemporary Maori leaders’ conferences, YPLC 2006 in Wellington was a success,  but it was hampered in some measure by the geographical concentration of Pasifika peoples in the Auckland region. Auckland considers itself to be a Pacific city,  the largest Polynesian city in the world, the Pasifika people of the Auckland region will respond actively and entusiastically to YPLC 2007 because it will be more accessible to them, and the issues that their communities face are here and now.

YPLC 2007 is timed to coincide with the start of Celebrate Pasifika and immediately before the Pasifika Festival at Western Springs.

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