Selina Roimata Vainerere-Patia is the recipient of ASB (Auckland Savings Bank) ‘Good as Gold’ award in New Zealand. SUPPLIED/22092317
Cook Islander Selina Roimata Vainerere-Patia is the ‘beating heart’ of the Cook Islands community in Auckland, and is admired by many for her generous and kind hearted soul, always giving up her time for others. Last week she received the ASB (Auckland Savings Bank) ‘Good as Gold’ award in New Zealand. TVNZ’s Seven Sharp rocked up unannounced to a community meeting surprising Vainerere-Patia with the news.
Roimata Vainerere-Patia was nominated by her manager Fleur Rabanal for her
selfless hard work in the Cook Islands community in New Zealand.
Vainerere-Patia is vibrant,
busy with loads of energy and has a passion to share and advocate for language
“Language, culture and music is my happy place,” she
Vainerere-Patia was “shocked” when she received the
Then reality set in and the feeling of being “utterly
grateful for the village” that put the whole surprise event together flooded
“To know that what you thought was the norm in the
work that you do for your community is really appreciated by those around you
is very humbling,” she said.
“I’m grateful to have an amazing manager who allows me
to weave my work into our Cook Islands community here in Glen Innes. I’m grateful
for my work family, my friends and my family who put up with all the things I
do and need from them when I ask for help or support in helping others.
“I’m blessed to be surrounded by amazing people who
support all that I do. I cannot do this without support from the village that I
love and care deeply for.”
Cook Islands born and raised to parents Lily and Tangata
Vainerere (Clerk of Parliament), Vainerere-Patia spent the first 10 years of
her life living on the islands of Rarotonga and Atiu.
Her passion in caring for Mamas and Papas stems from
her childhood growing up with her mother’s feeding parents (Papa Tata Uapere and
Mama Tekura Potoru) and her father’s grandparents (Papa Vainerere Tangatapoto and
Mama Tuerei Kokaua). Sadly,
they all passed away before she turned 13.
Her family travelled around the Pacific due to her
father’s studies and work commitments and so she didn’t get to spend much time
with her grandparents.
“Everywhere we went we’d ‘adopt’ the mamas and papas
of the Pacific as our grandparents.”
She has always enjoyed hanging out with the “oldies” since
they have lots of stories to tell. “They are mischievous, they love to sing and
dance and are sometimes a bit naughty too… we like to joke around and tease
each other a bit.
“There’s a whole bunch of them who know my parents and
now I get to spend time with them too.”
She knows Mama Mii and Papa Tere Tarapu, who are
former teachers of Avatea Primary School and Tereora College, Mama Manea who
loves to sing love songs, Mama Moepai who is always beautifully dressed and
Papa Teariki Numanga who always has a big smile on his face when he sees her.
“In my mind and heart this is one way I can give back
because I didn’t get a chance to do that for my own. I often wish they were
still alive so I can do things for them, but being around our mamas and papas
who appreciate the small and big things I do has been rewarding.”
mamas and papas of Tamaki (Panmure, Pt England and Glen Innes) are a special
group of people, says Vainerere-Patia.
“They take care of me and love it when I visit them, I
like to be cheeky to them and make them laugh and they keep me grounded and
She also spends time with the mamas at the Pacifica
Arts Centre that’s run by Cook Islander Jarcinda Ama-Stowers.
These women from around the Pacific share their
knowledge and skills in weaving, story-telling, and language with tamariki
(children) in the schools. She helps out with their Pacifica Experience
programme which is delivered in Auckland schools.
She also gets her friends involved when she can. Once
she dragged a bunch of her friends to a nursing home to sing songs for the
mamas and papas and hand out chocolates. “It was pretty awesome seeing the
smiles on their faces,” she says.
Vainerere-Patia has many talents. She also performed
as backing vocalist and instrument support for Annie Crummer and the Dubai Expo
in 2020.Having worked with Crummer on several
projects in the past she accepted the opportunity with “humbleness and grace”.
She is also a Justice of the Peace (JP), and to become
one is a long process, she explains.
First was the interview with local MP Maungakiekie
Denise Lee, to more interviews, courses and final exams which need a 97 per
cent pass rate to progress to the final stage of being sworn in as a Justice of
the Peace – taking over a year for the whole process.
As a JP, Vainerere-Patia volunteers some hours at
service desks where the public have access otherwise, she squeezes in
appointments in between her “day job” schedule.
The role involves taking affidavits, taking statutory
declarations, witnessing signatures and certifying copies of documents and gets
really busy as everyone from students to sponsors to government departments
need the service.
is currently employed at the Tamaki Regeneration – a Crown and Council owned
entity. She has been with the Tamaki Regeneration for almost seven years.
At the start she was a Tenancy Manager for public
housing, then moved into a Service Improvement Advisor role before starting her
current role as a Community Advisor for the Affordable Housing programme.
She delivers information sessions about the products
they have to help families get onto the home ownership market.
“With the rise in costs and prices of houses in
Auckland it’s become very difficult for families to buy a house in the open
market. Our programme of shared homeownership gives families a stepping stone
to building equity and eventually becoming full home owners.”
Going out into the community sharing stories including
her own about how they can become home owners is part of her job. It also
involves working with families to become mortgage ready – meaning following
them on the journey of an eight-week financial capability workshop delivered by
another Cook Islander Geoff Fariu.
This course helps the families learn about budgeting,
managing money, how to apply for a mortgage, living with a mortgage and so on,
“I’m passionate about this programme and increasing
home ownership for Maori and Pasifika. In our area only 4 per cent of
Maori/Pasifika own their own home.”
Having worked in social services for 10 years now, she
has seen the different sides of people’s lives. She has walked with these
families from the initial meetings up to the moment where she hands over the
keys to a brand-new home.
“It’s an emotional journey full of ups and downs but
rewarding when we get to the end and they move into their new home.”
moved to New Zealand in 2007, after living in Brisbane for seven years. At the
time her parents were heading back to Rarotonga from Noumea, New Caledonia having
lived there for about 10 years.
Living in Brisbane meant she didn’t get to see them
and her kids much so she moved to Auckland to setup a base there for her
Vainerere-Patia would like to say “meitaki ranuinui”
to her parents “for showing me the art of giving wholeheartedly and without
expectation”, to her manager Fleur Rabanal for nominating her for the award, to
ASB and the “awesome team” at Seven Sharp for selecting her as the recipient.
She also acknowledged her children and friends “who
put up with all my antics especially volunteering them to help me out with
events or helping others, to the mamas and papas of Tamaki who always welcome
me with open arms, to my families who are always supporting all that I do and
to all the prayers that my families and friends say every day for me, meitaki