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The Treasury’s Pacific Engagement

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The Treasury’s Pacific Engagement intro photo of kids using a computer

The Treasury’s Pacific Engagement intro photo of kids using a computer

In this article, Su'a Thomsen shares his views on the Treasury's pacific engagement programme.

Treasury's Living Standards Framework recognises that engagement of all New Zealanders in all facets of the economy and society is necessary for a robust, sustainable and competitive economy, with strong and independent families and communities.

Raising household incomes, maximising community assets and building human and social capital are key elements in raising the living standards of the Pacific community in New Zealand. Why Engage?

The 2013 Census shows that 7.4% of the New Zealand population are Pacific peoples (295,994), with two-thirds of them in the Auckland region (67%). New Zealand's Pacific population is a youthful one. The median age of Pacific peoples is 22.1 years, compared with 35.9 years for the overall New Zealand population

Failing to maximise the Pacific community's contribution risks all New Zealanders not enjoying the benefits of higher living standards in the future, and will be a major opportunity lost to the country.

This gap reflects major structural factors impacting on Pacific economic outcomes, including the young age structure of Pacific people, the differences in educational qualifications and skills, the sectors of employment where Pacific peoples are located, and the high proportion of migrants in the Pacific workforce (who tend to earn less than non-migrants). Add to this list, low financial literacy skills, negligible home ownership levels compared to other populations, high levels of debt and financial commitments exceeding household income, and we have an urgent challenge ahead of us.

Historically the Pacific community has not been active in its participation and relationship with the Treasury. In fact, the Pacific community has had very little information and knowledge about the work of the Treasury and its role within central government.

The value proposition for the Treasury is to develop and leverage off its strategic relationships with the Pacific community to support and achieve faster and sustainable improvement in living standards for the Pacific community in New Zealand.

To facilitate the Pacific community's contribution, the Treasury has for the first time embarked on a series of regional “conversations” with key Pacific stakeholders. Through these conversations the Treasury describes what it does, and listens to communities and their suggestions for improving the Pacific community's living standards, with particular focus on sustainable long term solutions in areas that they believe will make the most impact on Pacific economic performance.

Future state

As the Pacific population in New Zealand continues to grow, so too does the potential for the Pacific community to make an even greater contribution to the country's economy and living standards. It is expected that in 15 to 20 years, one in five New Zealand children, and one in eight workers under 39 years, will be Pacific. The demographics provide the Treasury with policy options that respond to the young and growing Pacific population.

Policy levers

The starting point for the Treasury is the ongoing refinement of the Living Standard Framework, and extending the Treasury's thinking on key areas such as social inclusion and wellbeing and tailoring its responses to capture the opportunities provided by New Zealand's growing and increasingly diverse Pacificcommunity. In essence, the Treasury wants to ensure that its work and advice positively impacts all New Zealanders.

An example of the Treasury's thinking and approach is the ongoing internal conversations surrounding the Pacific community's view of the relevancy of the four economic capitals underpinning the living standards framework. Questions as to the relevancy and applicability of the economic capital approach and its underlying assumption in the face of the holistic and inter-connected nature of the Pacific operating model is a key issue.

An alternative living standards approach emphasising the influential and significant role that religion plays and the consideration of cultural capital as a specific pillar in the living standards framework would add value to the ongoing thinking on the living standards framework and its relevancy to raising the living standards for the Pacific community. Similar conversations are being held in relation to social inclusion and diversity within the Treasury.


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