Timaru Pacific people not in debt

ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY
Last updated 05:00 28/11/2012
Fale Pasifika O Aoraki Trust manager Ofa Boyle
NO PROBLEM: Fale Pasifika O Aoraki Trust manager Ofa Boyle does not think Pacific people in Timaru give too much and get into debt.

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Timaru's Pacific population do not appear to be getting into debt as much as their counterparts in other parts of New Zealand, possibly because they are less culturally influenced, according to a Tongan woman who works with Island families here.

Families Commission's Pacific Families and Problem Debt report released at the end of last week found Pacific families were more vulnerable to problem debt than the general population.

It found contributors included cultural pressure to be seen to donate to events, family or church; living in multi-family households; the financial burden of providing accommodation for extra family members; and debts incurred by others.

Fale Pasifika O Aoraki Trust manager Ofa Boyle said she had found the Pacific people in Timaru adapted quite quickly to westernised culture. She believed the isolation of the Pacific community which numbered about 350 to 500 in South Canterbury also lessened the cultural influence.

Ms Boyle said the few immigrants who she had referred to Budget Advice were new to the country and were not used to having so much money so did not know how to prioritise bills such as rent.

When Ms Boyle arrived in New Zealand over 30 years ago she found it hard to adapt to Kiwi ways which were based on individual not collective decisions.

"In Tonga food is always shared."

On her first day at high school in Dunedin she was shocked to find everyone had their own lunches and no-one offered her any of theirs.

She likened the Pacific heritage of giving as being similar to Maori whanau.

"We think of others first, then ourselves."

Church was not part of their early culture she said, but after colonials introduced Christianity, tithing was embraced. She was aware of ministers in the region who did not encourage donations unless parishioners could afford them.

Line operator Moses Nareki, a Fijian, said giving was not really a choice for some Pacific people in their home land.

"If they did not give, it would ruin their reputation in front of the whole community," he said.

He had not seen the problem locally.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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