Key Points:

Hollywood star turned California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has chosen a New Zealand mother of four to join a Sacramento-based commission on Pacific Island affairs.

Catherine 'Ofa Mann, who lived in Auckland's Glen Eden and Grey Lynn before moving to America in 1996, was sworn in yesterday as one of five members of the Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs Commission, representing the Pacific Island community of California .

She is believed to be the first Kiwi Pacific Islander to be given such a position.

"When I went for the interview, I just had this sense that it was important for the governor to have representation - I would be advising him about Pacific Island issues."

Mrs Mann, 57, worked for the Farmers Trading Company in Auckland and was a member of the Latter-day Saints church in Grey Lynn and Ponsonby in the 1970s, working with youth, particularly young women.

"I stepped up to help other people. For me, that is my passion," Mrs Mann said.

The mother of four is now involved in the council of Asian and Pacific Islanders for Advocacy and Leadership, a board member of the Asian Pacific American Political Association and is the president of a youth programme dubbed To'utupu'o e 'Otu Felenite Association - Youth of the Friendly Islands of Tonga Association.

She says her connections and the work she did in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands inspired her to get involved with the Pasifika community in America.

"Polynesians here are on their own. They like to keep to themselves a little bit. Back home in New Zealand, there are a lot of sports teams and support groups for kids - there's the Polynesian festival.

"Over here, they don't have that.

"We teach kids cultural dances and they get to perform too. You give kids identity and it really makes a difference in their lives," she said.

Mrs Mann and her husband John's four children were born in New Zealand and attended West Auckland's Kelston Girls and Kelston Boys' High School. Her daughter Elizabeth says growing up with a mother who was involved with the community was something she found normal.

"My mum was people's first point of contact. It was always in her personal interest to help others, especially youth."

She says moving to the United States did not stop her mother from continuing in her work with young people.

"It kind of set her off for bigger things. That's the one thing I learned from my mum, is to never give up on people.

"You may be touching people's lives and they'll never tell you."

Mrs Mann said she was looking forward to working with Schwarzenegger.

"He's very nice, very busy. But I'm looking forward to our first job with him."