A pillar of Whanganui's Cook Islands community is continuing his push to get more Pasifika positively involved in society.
Nga Apai was voted chairman for another three years when the Cook Islands Community Group held its AGM at the Whanganui Cook Islands Community Hall in Puriri St two weeks ago.
Apai has filled several leadership roles in Whanganui, including being on the Tawhero School Board of Trustees for the past 18 years, as well as working for the Whanganui District Council.
Apai is also a committee member on the Community Advisory Board for Central Police, providing a voice for his people as well as raising issues in the Pasifika community.
"I thought I needed to get on there so we can look after our Pasifika people. We can see if we can help them out in any way, especially our youth."
Apai and the Cook Islands Community Group are trying to bring Pasifika "out of the shadows" and into the light where they can be assisted along their life journey.
The group's membership is slowly on the rise, with Apai hoping future community activities and projects will continue that growth.
"It has been a struggle. I took over three years ago and our membership was really, really down. After three years, we walk in on Saturday and the hall was packed."
Apai said 2020 had been a tough year for the entire community, and it was only now that the impact of Covid-19 had truly shown.
"There was a bit of a lagging period. All those government subsidies and schemes helped, but they are all finished now and we are starting to see the struggles."
A big focus over the next few months will be assisting with the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine to the Pasifika community.
"Moving forward the vaccine is the big one, a lot of us want to go home. That's where the biggest drop is at the moment, Pasifika and Māori people aren't getting the vaccine.
"There could be a bylaw that comes in where you need a vaccine passport before you leave, we just have to be prepared."
Getting Pasifika more involved in their communities in a positive way, and understanding government processes when it comes to accessing funding and support, is one of Apai's main missions in the next three years.
"There is no doubt and no question that the Cook Islanders and Pasifika people are not scared of hard work. That is no question at all.
"What lets our people down is the governance and getting their 'i's dotted and their 't's crossed."
Apai is currently playing a vital role in the revitalisation project for the community church in Gonville.
Last November, as part of the Government's Covid-19 response, the Whanganui Cook Islands Trust received $285,000 for the Pasifika churches renovation project.
"We would have spent years and years fundraising. There is no way this would have happened without this funding."
The building, on the corner of Puriri and Harper streets, is shared by two churches - Whanganui Cook Islands Christian Church and the River City Fijian Assembly of God Church.
Apai said they had been using local Pasifika apprentices to help with the renovations, a key step in the whole process.
"We are looking at hiring some more as the vacancies open up and utilise Government agencies to assist them and bring up our people's skillset to a level where they compete in the workplace market."
A former labourer himself, Apai said he wanted to provide avenues for local Pasifika to thrive and advance in their professional careers as he had, rather than be relegated to tough, low-paying jobs.
Tertiary education and trade qualifications for youth would be key.
"Instead of being a labourer on a building site, they can earn some good coin. It's not going to be easy, but there is a good reward at the end of it. At the moment, they are living day by day."
The church renovations are expected to be finished in June or July. Once completed, the facility will become a wider base for the Pasifika community.
With a full commercial kitchen and newly renovated hall, Apai said they would look to run some school lunch programmes and more Cook Islands activities such as language classes and more.
"To me, the heritage and culture, we are losing it. Especially the language, we are losing it.
"This will be a hub where we can get some tutors and utilise this space in the summer for the learning of the language."
With Cook Islands Language Week in August, the focus of the Cook Island Community Group will shift in the next few weeks as its members prepare for their annual celebrations.