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Efeso collins with a few bushes in the background a pink jacket
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PoliticsFebruary 21, 2024

Tributes flow for Fa’anānā Efeso Collins

Efeso collins with a few bushes in the background a pink jacket
(Image – supplied)

After Fa’anānā Efeso Collins died suddenly earlier today, people from across Aotearoa and the political spectrum have commended his kindness, generosity and passion for the Pacific community.

Collins was long associated with the Labour Party; after studying education and becoming the University of Auckland Student Association president in 1999, he worked as a youth worker in South Auckland. He was elected to the Papatoetoe Local Board in 2013, then served as an Auckland Councillor for six years, between 2016 and 2022. 

After unsuccessfully contesting Auckland’s 2022 mayoral elections, coming second to Wayne Brown, Collins stepped back from local body politics. He was selected as a list candidate for the Green Party in 2023, running in the Panmure-Ōtāhuhu electorate and ranked 11 on the Green Party list. He was elected on October 14 2023. 

Tributes will be added as they are shared.

Green MP Fa’anānā Efeso Collins (Image: Tina Tiller)

‘A good man’: Parliament remembers Efeso Collins

Parliament came to a standstill at 2pm today, the time normally reserved for question time.

Speaker Gerry Brownlee acknowledged the passing of Efeso Collins and said that MPs would today be given the chance to formally recognise his service. In a few weeks, he said, there would be an opportunity for further tributes.

Speaking first, Green Party co-leader labelled Collins an “extraordinary man” who believed that his life’s work was to deliver a better life for those who followed.

“His graciousness, his huge smile and his reassuring voice,” Shaw said. “He was joyful, he was funny, he was kind, and thoughtful. He conducted himself quietly and kindly and gracefully. He worked for change not by forcing his ideas on others but by listening and seeking out ideas from others. He was a man full of empathy. Mr Speaker, Efeso Collins was a good man.”

It was only last week that Collins had delivered his maiden speech, said Shaw, and this would now also serve as his valedictory.

Prime minister Christopher Luxon spoke next, remembering Collins as a “friendly, positive, collaborative” man and a “true servant leader”.

“I acknowledge the loss his community will be feeling today. He was just getting started at this place and I think he had a promising political career. I have no doubt that he would have been very successful and very good for this place,” Luxon added. He acknowledged both the Green Party and the Labour Party and the loss they would be feeling today.

Chris Hipkins, Labour leader, said Collins was a passionate advocate for some of Aotearoa’s most disadvantaged communities. “He lived and breathed public service,” said Hipkins. “He was the first in his family to attend and graduate from university and holds a master’s degree in education.”

Reflecting on their shared time in student politics, Hipkins said that Collins could “break tension” with just a few words. “He spoke with passion and with eloquence and that is something I will always remember him for,” said Hipkins. “He could convey complex ideas in a way that captivated peoples’ imagination.”

Deputy Carmel Sepuloni spoke next, her voice wavering at times. She said losing Collins was a loss to New Zealand and to its Pasifika community. “Your legacy of service and leadership will be remembered.”

Finally, Te Pāti Māori’s Debbie Ngarewa-Packer thanked Collins’ family and friends for “their generosity” in sharing Collins with the world. “His love was just so genuine, you felt like you were the only ones feeling that love,” she said, joking that she felt one day he would have moved from the Greens to Te Pāti Māori.

Earlier today, when the news of Collins’ passing was made public, Ngarewa-Packer said that members from many parliamentary parties ended up in the same office to share their memories. “He… brought us all together,” said Ngarewa-Packer.

MPs then stood to sing a waiata, after which there was a minute’s silence. Parliament has now been adjourned until next Tuesday.

Parliamentary colleagues

Earlier, Shaw addressed media to answer questions and confirm the passing of Collins.

“We are absolutely devastated,” said Shaw. “He was the most beautiful man, deeply committed and steadfast in what he believed, stood for and championed; he did all that with a sense of grace and love.” Shaw said that Collins’s love of family was a strong priority for him.

Shaw noted that Collins had spoken of love in his maiden speech last week. ” That’s not a word you hear often in parliament, in the debating chamber. The fact the chose to talk about love speaks volumes about who he was.”

Labour’s Pacific caucus and prime minister Chris Hipkins remembered meeting Collins at a student association meeting when Collins was Auckland University Student Association president in 1999. “We were having a fight about something, and Efeso stood up – he made a self deprecating joke then held the room captive with his oratory for 10 minutes.”

Carmel Sepuloni, Labour’s deputy leader, said that many of Labour’s Pacific caucus had known Collins for decades. “We studied with him, worked with him, and loved him. He was a massive advocate for the Pacific community, for the vulnerable, for the poor, for young people, for South Auckland.” She described his shift to the Greens as “he moved out of the fale, but only next door”, and remembered being impressed by his leadership as a Pacific student association president, as well as his work behind the scenes for different causes. She said that she had received many messages of support from Collins in the past, including when she became deputy prime minister, as had many of the other Pacific parlimentarians.

Barbara Edmonds was so overcome at the press conference that she was unable to answer questions. She wrote on X “Go now in peace to love and serve the Lord.” Manuia lau malaga brother.” 

Jenny Salesa, the MP for Panmure-Ōtahuhu, said she counted Collins as a friend and a constituent. “We will really miss him, we have so much alofa for his family,” she said. “He has been such a contributor for the Pacific community.”

Efeso Collins at his swearing-in ceremony with Mayor Phil Goff in 2016. (Photo by Todd Niall/RNZ).

The prime minister commemorated the Green Party MP on X. “I am truly shocked and saddened at the news of Efeso Collins’ sudden death. Efeso was a good man, always friendly and kind, and a true champion and advocate for his Samoan and South Auckland communities. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies go to his family, his community and colleagues.”

Act leader David Seymour wrote on X. “Efeso Collins was a passionate, articulate, and charismatic advocate for south Auckland. He was personally liked by both sides of politics and will be personally missed by both sides of politics. Our thoughts go out to those loved ones he leaves behind.”

Local government and former colleagues

Local government voices and former colleagues spoke of Collin’s commitment to progress and representation in local government.

“I happened to attend [ the charity event for ChildFund] today to support my dear friend Buttabean. I had a laugh with Efeso about politics and Wayne before they commenced. Efeso was a remarkable man, we didn’t agree politically, but as a person, and an orator, he was without peer,” said Leo Molloy, a restaurant owner who temporarily contested the Auckland mayoral election against Collins in 2022, on X.  

Referring to the death of his former mayoral rival, Brown says today is a sad day for Auckland. “He was a good man; my heart goes out to his family. Efeso is someone I had a lot of respect for,” said the Auckland mayor. He added, “He was a bold Pacific leader and champion for South Auckland, as well as a fierce and respectful opponent on the campaign trail for the Auckland mayoralty. Although we competed for the mayoralty, we actually became quite good friends and were very respectful of each other.”

Former MP Michael Wood wrote that Collins was a “man of faith, proud & loving Dad & husband, student leader, son of the Pacific & the South, total crack up when most needed, proudly political, seeker of justice, hard on issues but kind on people. So much of the best in one person.” 

Rebecca Matthews, a Wellington city councillor acknowledged Collins’ passing too.

Campbell Barry, mayor of Lower Hutt, said that he had talked to Collins about connections between local government and parliament in Waitangi a few weeks ago. “Shocked and devastated to hear the heart breaking news of Efeso Collins passing,” he wrote.

Perhaps the most heartfelt tribute for Collins from any local politician came from the woman who he sat next to in the council chamber during his time as an Auckland councillor, Ōrākei representative and deputy mayor Desley Simpson. Over email she told The Spinoff, “This is beyond tragic. A man known for giving so much to his community, to Tamaki Makaurau/Auckland and most recently to Aotearoa New Zealand, has died participating in an event to raise money for his fellow Pacific people today. Words cannot express how I’m feeling.

For six years, we sat next to each other around the town hall table. Efeso and I chose to sit next to each other so we could learn about our respective communities and better understand their often very different perspectives when making regional decisions.  Because there were hours and hours each day sitting next to each other, we shared a lot of information about our families. His youngest daughter is just a little bit younger than my youngest grandchild, which gave us lots of talk about. Without a shadow of a doubt, he loved his wife and girls more than anything, and would often show me his quirky messages to them, which were full of love, fun and humour. He was exceedingly polite, humble, a wonderful orator, and cared so much for others.”

Auckland’s deputy mayor ended her statement by saying, “It is so tragically sad that he leaves behind his best friend in Fia and his much loved daughters Kaperiela and Asalemo. I know his faith was incredibly important to him and so may God’s love embrace his aiga at this sad difficult time.”

Activists, unions and campaigners

“We are heartbroken for Efeso’s whānau, friends and community,” said Wagstaff. The trade union boss called the death of Collins, a man he called lovely, warm, graceful and passionate and who Wagstaff believed had so much more to give, was devastating. “He was always a staunch supporter and advocate of unions. We will miss him dearly.” Other unions joined in the mourning. 

The Pasifika Medical Association acknowledged Collins’ deat. PMA Chief Executive, Debbie Sorensen, acknowledges Collins’ tremendous service and advocacy of the Pacific community. “He worked tirelessly for our Pacific communities and will be remembered for his commitment to seeing Pacific people prosper in Aotearoa New Zealand,” she said. “He was a courageous leader whose legacy will always be remembered. ”

PMA Group Board Director, Sir Collin Tukuitonga, pays tribute to the Samoan-Tokelauan leader. “Efeso was a long-time friend and was on the same mission as we were to try to do better for, and with, our Pacific communities. He was a man with great community values, a stand-out leader, and he was just starting his next chapter in national government.”

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