Clergy switch from Labour to National

02:31, Apr 01 2014

A small group of influential Pacific Island clergy have sparked fierce debate in South Auckland after they declared they would switch their support from the traditional Labour Party to the National Party.

The action, taken at the Manurewa flea market on Sunday, is under fire on Pacific Island social media.

The ministers involved have been criticised for not consulting their parishes.

The move has also sparked another meeting next Sunday when, under the auspices of a Samoan Catholic Church, 23 churches will meet to discuss political parties and Christian values.

The South Auckland electorates are traditionally Labour thanks in large part to church-going Pacific Islanders.

A Seventh Day Adventist minister, Teleiai Edwin Puni, said he and five other Seventh Day Adventist ministers – all recognised in the Pacific community – met National MP Cam Calder on Sunday.

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"If we are to defend our Christian values and build a brighter future for New Zealand families, we need to engage our Pacific people and vote National," Puni said.

Fundamentalist pastor Sooalo Setu Mu'a said they had been supporting Labour.

"To change from wearing red to blue is not an easy thing for our Pacific communities who have been voting Labour over the years."

But on Pacific Facebook and Twitter sites the declaration has drawn criticism, with several noting that the ministers had worn blue T-shirts stating: "I'm a KEY person".

"Is this the same John Key who voted for same-sex marriage?" one person commented.

Another was critical of ministers being involved in politics.

"Jesus didn't say just love a certain group of people. Gonna stop now ... "

A former Labour voter said he believed "both parties have let our people down many times".

Fairfax Media