By Sri Krishnamurthi
Rachael Mario isn’t just any woman, she is special in that she hails from the idyllic South Pacific island of Rotuma.
And it is her love for social work which she hopes will propel her and her Roskill Community Voice and City Vision team onto the Mt Roskill board.
It is also the first time a Pasifika person has decided to stand for the Puketapapa Local Board in Mt Roskill, in the current Auckland local government elections that began today.
- READ MORE: Mayoral debate cancelled after candidate withdraws from race
- Rotuman social justice advocate puts key bid for Roskill Community Voice
Having lived in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland for 33 years has given her a perspective on social justice and diversity for Auckland.
Much of that comes from time spent at the Whānau Community Hub in the Auckland suburb of Mt Roskill where her and her team do a sterling job in running different programmes for the good folk of Roskill.
For instance, every first Wednesday of the month they host a free seniors lunch, and it not just for Rotumans but for the diverse group of seniors who reside in Mt Roskill and who yearn for company and a “good old talanoa”.
Quite apart from that, Mario and her team would be out delivering groceries to the needy, or holding health and well-being, financial literacy and language classes for children.
That the community doubles as the Rotuman-Fijian Centre is a testament to her 30+ plus years of marriage to Auckland Fiji human rights advocate Nik Naidu and former journalist, who she met in Fiji when he was a budding radio personality at FM96 in Suva.
When you first meet Rachael Mario she greets you with big smile and utters charming Noa’ia (the Rotuman language greeting) and then she inquires about you with an inquisitive mind just to see how things are going for you.
As Mario explains, the Hub isn’t just for Rotumans but is used by a plethora of other groups, including the Moana-Pasifika Seniors. It is also home to the recently formed Asia-Pacific Media Network (APMN), which publishes the Pacific Journalism Review at the behest of founder Professor David Robie.
With such a diverse bunch using the Whānau Community Hub it is small wonder that Mario would branch out and try to incorporate more diversity in her already busy lifestyle.
That is why the chair of the Auckland Rotuman Fellowship Inc. is now standing for her local Puketapapa Local Board in Mt Roskill.
But that has not been without social injustice challenges that her community has faced for many years.
Lack of language funding
Included in those is the housing crisis in Auckland but much closer to her heart was the lack of funding provided to Rotuman language programmes which was given a cold shoulder by local boards.
“The biggest challenge, which isn’t fair, is the discrimination against the Rotuman Community. The Ministry of Pacific Peoples choose to run a different language week against our community-led Rotuman language week programme,” she says.
Other issues she lists are climate change and the environment which she says are huge for Auckland and wider New Zealand.
What also occupies her mind is the city centre, economic and cultural development, better outcomes for Māori, wastewater and storm water, transport and parks and communities.
In a nutshell, Rachael Mario is all things to all communities.
Voting ends on October 8.
- Three fellow candidates from the Fiji Collective contesting the local body elections are: Anne DEGIA-PALA (C&R – Communities and Residents) – Whau Local Board candidate
- Ilango KRISHNAMOORTHY (Labour) – Manurewa-Papakura Ward councillor & Manurewa Local Board candidate
Vincent NAIDU (Labour) – Waitakere Licensing Trust – Ward 4 (Henderson) candidate