From humble upbringing, a quick ascent

03:30, Jan 21 2014
Sam Lotu-Iiga Maungakiekie
Sam Lotu-Iiga Maungakiekie (also known as One Tree Hill) "middle New Zealand".

Since entering Parliament in 2008, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga has risen quickly through the ranks as an MP.

Already the chair of the social services committee, the former financial analyst and Cambridge graduate has been tipped as a minister-in-waiting since the last election.

Lotu-Iiga was born in Apia in Samoa in 1970, moving to New Zealand with his family in 1973.

His upbringing was humble by his own account.

During his maiden speech to Parliament he said his father had walked from Ponsonby to Parnell to save the bus fare, while up to 16 people lived in his family's three-bedroom house in Mangere.

However his education, which he described as "the key to unlocking so many of the opportunities that I have enjoyed in life" has been impressive.


After attending Auckland Grammar, Lotu-Iiga studied law and commerce at the University of Auckland, before being employed at top law firm Russell McVeagh.

He then travelled to London where he worked as a financial analyst for the Bankers Trust, while completing an MBA at the University of Cambridge.

From there he worked as a consultant for Macquarie Bank in Sydney, before returning to Auckland, where he was elected to the Auckland City Council in 2007, representing the Tamaki-Maungakiekie seat.

In the general election a year later he won the seat of Maungakiekie for National with a margin of 1942 votes. In 2011 he was re-elected with a 3021-vote margin.

During his maiden speech, Lotu-Iiga thanked members of his family, as well as controversial political strategist Simon Lusk, praising him for his "shrewd counsel".

He described Maungakiekie (also known as One Tree Hill) was "middle New Zealand", an electorate in which 149 different ethnic groups were represented.

"Over one-third of our residents were born overseas and a third speak foreign languages, 70 per cent have a religious faith, and our schools range from decile one to decile nine," he said.

"The Maungakiekie electorate is at the heart of Auckland's diversity, with the iconic Maungakiekie as its jewel. It spans the Auckland isthmus from the Manukau Harbour in the west to the Tamaki River in the east."

He credits his parents for instilling in the family "Christian principles, and a diligent work ethic".

As well as being conferred the Samoan high chiefly title of Peseta, Lotu-Iiga has served in a variety of roles, from coach of the Auckland under-14 rugby team to being a board member of the Primary Health Organisations of New Zealand.

His policies are not always in line with those of his party.

Late last year he launched a private members' bill that would make it compulsory for under-15s to wear life jackets on small boats, two years after the Government ruled out a general move to make life jackets compulsory.

Around Parliament, Lotu-Iiga is often seen shadowed by his executive assistant, carrying files for the MP, something more generally seen among government ministers.

Fairfax Media