7 Jun 2018

Pasifika business looks for govt initiatives to boost participation

4:54 am on 7 June 2018

Pasifika entrepreneurs in New Zealand are hoping for more initiatives to get their people into business.

They want to see better career pathways and support as automation in the workplace gathers steam.

The chair of the Wellington Pasifika Business Network, Paul Retimanu, said tax was a big issue hanging over small and medium enterprises.

Wellington Pasifika Business Network Chairman, Paul Retimanu

Wellington Pasifika Business Network Chairman, Paul Retimanu Photo: RNZI / Koro Vaka'uta

He was among Pasifika and Maori business representatives at a post-budget meeting with Finance Minister Grant Robertson in Wellington this week.

Mr Retimanu said people were waiting to see what the government came up with following the presentation of its budget last month.

"You have these big corporates that don't pay a lot of tax," he said.

"In this morning's breakfast, somebody mentioned about Google, but you also have a lot of retirement villages as well. Those guys pay hardly any tax.

"The other issue, which I think is going to be really interesting, is around capital gains," Mr Retimanu said.

"The playing field needs to be levelled. I sit here and I employ 80 staff and I pay tax yet I can go and buy a house, do it up, sell it, make $100,000 and pay nothing."

Pasifika business ownership sits at around 1.6 percent and Mr Retimanu said increasing that percentage and opening career pathways was important.

"I think that will be what influences change for our people and in particular getting our wealth as far as our pay rates up and things like that.

"At the end of the day I think that will be the focus for me because that's long term. Unfortunately it is not going to happen overnight, theses are 5-10 year plans, but we need to start looking at it now," Mr Retimanu said.

Holona Lui, (left), and Latu To'omaga

Wellington Pasifika businessman, Holona Lui Photo: RNZI / Koro Vaka'uta

A business network board member, Holona Lui, runs a Lower Hutt-based consultancy firm and agreed there was a need to form a Pasifika 'talent pipeline'.

"How do we bring more of our young people into businesses?

"How do we give them and equip them with some of the skills that they need and also expose them to some of the experiences that open up business as a very real possibility for them," Mr Lui said.

"People are very inventive and entrepreneurial in their own way. How do we shape that in a Pacific way and bring that into the business arena?"

Grant Robertson said there was a need to bring the education sector in line with industry needs but said this could only happen with business and training providers at the table.

"This is one of the things I have discovered in the seven or so months of being in government," Mr Robertson said.

"That connection between, from a government end it is MBIE, (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Enterprise), who are the conduit with business and training providers through the Tertiary Training Commission is not good.

"We don't share enough information about what is needed."

Some concern was also expressed at the meeting that the Pasifika population was highly represented in industries like manufacturing which were changing rapidly due to increasing automation and technology.

Fears about job security were rising.

Mr Robertson said that was being addressed.

"I think that is a really good point. We have a programme in this budget around young rangatahi, (youth), we are going to develop more programmes to support people to train and retrain and clearly we want those targeted at the groups who need it the most," he said.

Julia Apu'ula owns the SWET gym in Wellington and was delighted with talk of the rangatahi programme.

"They are looking to incorporate students in with actual private enterprises. That is something that our business has actually started doing and it is good that they are looking to roll that out [more widely]."

Grant Robertson said while there wasn't too much targeted assistance towards Pasifika business, their communities would be impacted by universal programmes like the Families Package which aimed to improve incomes for low-and middle-income families with children.

"While we call something like the families package universal, actually Maori and Pasifika whanau will actually benefit from it far more than non-Maori and Pasifika whanau so that actually, while it is a universal programme, has a targeted impact."

Mr Robertson told the gathering his first budget was about rebuilding critical public services.

However, he said 'Rome wasn't built in a day' and more assistance would follow over the next few years.

"This is the first of three budgets this term and I hope more in the next terms to come. I am a fan of cricket and in particular test cricket and governing is test cricket.

"It is not Twenty-20, it is not a One Day International, it is about building strong foundations and following through on that during a sustained period of time."

The minister said a number of education reviews and the Tax Working Group should address some of the Pasifika network's concerns.

The post-Budget meeting was organised by the Wellington Maori Business Network, Te Awe; and the Wellington Pasifika Business Network.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson addresses the Wellington Pacific and Maori business community

Finance Minister Grant Robertson addresses the Wellington Pacific and Maori business community Photo: RNZ Pacific / Moera Tuilaepa-Taylor