GUEST BLOG: James Papali’i – Amnesty for Pasifika Overstayers


During a Labour Party Conference held around the late 1990s, I was sitting with my Mangere Team experiencing my first conference, full of excitement and wonder at our amazing confident leader Hon Helen Clark. Our team was quite small at that time, with our MP the late Taito Philip Field and his wife Maxine and my late father and sister, part of the 15 strong team. I was new at the game and still green as grass when it came to understanding politics. I was a young Social Worker based at the then Mangere DSW. Still fresh in my memory banks, were the protesting days of the spring box tour and the dawn raids.

Nearing the end of Helens presentation, I leaned over and asked my sister Siniva, ‘did Helen mention the Pasifika Islanders at all in her speech.’  My sister just rotated her head to confirm my query. So off I went, I didn’t know what I was doing or what it would achieve, and I ended up heading towards Helen and sat on the stage in front of her. Dover Samuels had tried to stop me, but I side stepped him with my quick turkey step. When I was seated, with my heart pumping twice its regular pace, others had come forward to try and remove me. I heard Helen say,’ leave him, he’s Ok its James’. 

When we returned to our motel function area, my dad and Taito were not impressed, although the rest of the team were congratulating me and asking why I did it. When I explained my view of Pasifika not being mentioned in the speech, dad said sternly, son you must apologize to our leader, and Taito agreed. Two weeks later we were in Hon Helen Clarks office with my father and sister and Taito, ready to apologize for my erratic, humiliating and rash action. After apologizing in front of my team to Helen, we were all shocked and surprised at her response. James, she said in her sisterly tone, thank you for your apology, which I accept, because your actions did unsettle me at the time, as I didn’t know what was happening. However, I am going to apologize to you and your team that came to our conference. I went through my speech papers, because I was sure I had acknowledged the Pacific Islanders contribution. But there was nothing there. I will make sure, from now on, through all my speeches, I will acknowledge the Pasifika community. I felt so humbled and proud at the same time, and my dads smile confirmed and validated Helen’s response.

Today, I feel like sitting on the stage again when Jacinda holds our next Labour Party conference. I know Willie Jackson will try and stop me, but he won’t, I’ll just sidestep him. My point is, our pasifika community are being left out again, at a crucial time, in an era never seen before with COVID-19 threatening us all. The most marginalized and frightened, the unseen and uncounted for, are my pasifika brothers and sisters. Hidden by mostly low-income families that are already stressed and suffering but will never give up their own. Now is the time to achieve what my friend Helen courageously did during her first term, an amnesty for our pasifika whanau that are already here.


James Papali’i: Raised in Mangere South Auckland, Auckland University 1984 BA and Massey University Post grad Diploma Social Policy 2002. Currently Social Worker for Manukau Urban Maori Authority working in Mangere and South Auckland. Founder of Manukau Outriggers Waka Ama 1988 and Portage Crossing Waka Ama club based at Mangere Bridge. Manukau City Councillor rep Mangere Ward….1998-2006



  1. It’s the most practical thing to do,

    It’s the right thing to do,

    It’s fuel for the fire of those who engage in the politics of hate,

    So I guess it will not be done out of fear.

    Courage to do the right thing, and lay the foundation for a better future takes just one step away from fear.

    Come on folks, fight fear and offer amnesty for our pasifika whanau NOW!

  2. in the purely legal sense rewarding overstayers from any group is wrong BUT….if the removal of fear of deportation will encourage vaxxing then let’s just do it..
    the law is one thing the national emergency we face is another..
    after all covid doesn’t care about immigration status.

  3. Absolutely the right thing to do. Aotearoa New Zealand allows Australians to come and go as they please but different rules apply for our closest Pacific neighbours. That’s racism.

  4. Agree with James, time for an amnesty for Pacific people, Aotearoa NZ has rather obviously long been a nation of the Pacific, and more people positively acknowledge that now.

    I worked in the South Auckland car industry in the 70s and class left unionists did what we could regarding giving advance notice to workers of immigration officials “raids” and appearances. Plus we leaned on employers to provide some dignity for targeted workers. Pacific workers were an important part of manufacturing and service industries but were discarded at the whim of politicians when it suited.

  5. Where are the houses and health care coming from though? Hate to be practical here, but someone needs to work out for every person coming into NZ or illegally staying in NZ, and encouraging more of that, the problem is getting worse.

    We don’t have the infrastructure or resources for more people at this time.

    “Lakes DHB confirmed it had six intensive care unit beds, of which four were resourced, which refers to staffing. There are also six coronary care unit beds, four of them resourced. The DHB had 16 ventilators and 14 were resourced.According to the Ministry of Health, there are 116,370 people in the DHB’s region, which covers Rotorua and the wider Taupō and Tūrangi areas. Rotorua and Taupō have hospitals.

    We already have less health care workers because so many individualists in NZ health care system, can’t follow medical advice themselves and NZ’s neoliberal plans are all about getting the cheapest worker, not the best workers and retaining them over their careers.

    And neoliberal led state housing building not going too well, with the woke, banking on developers who seem to be walking away. (and who knows what remedial work they will need in the future).

    Failed Australian builder: Covid hit Kāinga Ora projects on two sites

    NZ construction is a carbon emission filled polluting Ponzi, that doesn’t deliver affordable or average wage housing. Now interest rates are rising, many people struggling on their mortgages are going to be caught out.

    NZ woke are pushing the country down into poverty by constantly lobbying and increasing demand of high needs groups who have hundreds of groups championing them on and there is nobody championing the middle class anymore.

    It’t all about the billionaires and high needs people in NZ. Everyone else seems to fall through the cracks and has little support.

  6. ..If you look at the map the Pacific Islands are part of the archipelago named Polynesia, as distinct from Micronesia, Melanesia (which includes Fiji) and Australia; AO/NZ is included in the Polynesian archipelago (don’t you just love that word?) so no brainer to enact an emergency amnesty and keep it that way, imo.

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