Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Big crowd for Pacific mayoral candidate

Mixture of races pack church for launch.

Uesifili Unasa's supporters at his campaign launch were of a diverse ethnic mix. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Uesifili Unasa's supporters at his campaign launch were of a diverse ethnic mix. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Auckland mayoral candidate the Rev Uesifili Unasa may be looking for some divine intervention, having launched his campaign at church.

Dozens of people - many in their Sunday best - turned out for the official launch of his mayoral campaign at the Mt Eden Methodist Church yesterday.

The event had to be moved outside as there were too many people.

Cars lined several streets and a huge crowd spilled onto the street. Cars tooted in support and a band provided entertainment in a parade-like event.

There was a mix of nationalities and ages. The turnout mirrored much of what Mr Unasa pushed in his speech - that he was all about the people.

"We are called ... to take a risk and put our people at the heart of our city's life. To be bold and courageous by building villages, city families and communities where all can participate, valued, honoured and where no one is left behind or alone," he said.

"People make the city. Strong, resilient and empowered communities build the future."

Mr Unasa said the current leadership within the council had accrued a huge amount of debt which younger New Zealanders would have to pay for.

Infrastructure projects around the city would cost around $20 billion or more, he estimated, and he urged people to use their vote to help youth and communities.

"Auckland can do more and better for our young people. I believe the council can engage and inspire our young people so that they are excited about our city, its future and their part in it.

"This will not happen under the current leadership, which is mesmerised by trains and tunnels. A leadership that believes bricks and mortar are transformational - I cannot agree."

Mr Unasa is Auckland's first Pacific Island mayoral candidate in this campaign. He is also chairman of the council's Pacific People's Advisory Panel.

He has said the council's disregard of minority groups is a key factor in his wanting to run for mayor.

Speaking to the audience yesterday - a good mix of Auckland's Asian, Maori, Pacific and Pakeha communities - he said he was standing for all people.

Among them was 62-year-old Suitupe Savaiinaea-Maiava, who said she was supporting Mr Unasa because he understood what she - as a Samoan and Pacific person - was going through.

"He has walked the same path and knows the struggles that many people within our community go through."

Those vying for the Auckland Super City's top job are incumbent Len Brown, American millionaire businessman John Palino, Mana Party candidate John Minto, long-time activist Penny Bright and Reuben Shadbolt, son of Invercargill and former Waitemata City mayor Tim Shadbolt.

- NZ Herald

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