Civic Award surprises and humbles Pasifika leader

Tofilau Talalelei Taufale was asked to suggest people for a civic award so imagine his surprise when he was awarded a Hastings District Council Civic Honours Award.

“I thought hey, that’s not how it works,” the Pacific Health Manager at Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand, Te Matau a Māui says. He had nominated other Pasifika people for the awards, never expecting he would be a recipient.

Mr Taufale, known as T, recently received the Health and Welfare Civic Honour Award for his leadership, advocacy and voluntary work in the Pasifika community.

He says he was humbled and surprised to learn he was nominated.

Since 2015, Mr Taufale has been a volunteer trustee of the Hawke’s Bay Youth Futures Trust, which supports getting young people into work, education or training.

He also leads USO Bike Ride in Hawke’s Bay which aims to improve the quality of life and health outcomes for Polynesian people.

The nomination describes Mr Taufale as a “visionary who is passionate about the community”.

He worked with Hastings District Council to deliver community concerts, in 2019 to fundraise for Samoa during the measles epidemic, in 2020 to celebrate all things Pasifika, and in 2021 bringing award-winning Samoan group Punialavaa, to perform at Toitoi Hawke’s Bay Arts and Events Centre.

Mr Taufale led the Pacific Health response during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the 2020 lockdowns, Mr Taufale coordinated council and central government responses to assist Pasifika families across the Ngāti Kahungunu rohe.

He acknowledges there were many times when he went above and beyond to advocate locally, regionally and nationally for our Pasifika community in Hawke’s Bay. He worked with the Multi-cultural society to support their initiatives and advocated for support to be extended to thousands of RSE workers who were stranded across Aotearoa.

“Mr Taufale’s passion, leadership and tireless work for the Pasifika whānau across Hawke’s Bay has contributed immeasurably to community wellbeing and promoting inclusive and welcoming communities,” the nomination states.

Mr Taufale responded by saying: “I want to acknowledge our Youth Future’s Trustees, USO Bike Ride, Ngati Kahugnunu, Pacific community leaders, RSE employers, church groups and Multicultural society leaders who have all played a role in this award.”

The Hastings Civic Honour comes on the heels of a Napier Pilot City Award Mr Taufale received earlier this year for his work in the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. And it could soon be a trifecta, as Mr Taufale is nominated for the upcoming Napier City Council Civic Awards.

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