Smokefree 2025 Pacific Assurance Group

The Smokefree 2025 Pacific Assurance Group provides assurance to the Director-General of Health on actions to achieve and progress delivery of the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan, particularly for Pacific people in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Pacific Assurance Group members 

Associate Professor Sir Collin Tukuitonga – Auckland/Northland. Niuean

Sir Collin is the inaugural Associate Dean Pacific and Associate Professor of Public Health in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland. He has comprehensive clinical, public health and public policy experience in New Zealand, the Pacific Islands and internationally.

He was the Director-General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community from 2012 to 2019, the largest development organisation serving the Pacific islands. Prior to that role, Sir Collin was the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, Director of Public Health for the Ministry of Health and Coordinator of Surveillance of Noncommunicable Diseases for the World Health Organization based in Geneva. He was a Commissioner of the World Health Organization Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) Commission.

He was born and raised on Niue Island. In 2000, he was a Harkness Fellow in Health Care Policy at the University of California (San Francisco).

Caren Rangi – Hawke's Bay. Cook Islands

Caren has extensive experience in governance roles on not-for-profit, government and private boards. She is proud of her Cook Island’s Māori heritage and brings that lens to her diverse governance roles. Caren is the Chair of the Arts Council of New Zealand and is a member of the boards of Te Papa and Radio New Zealand. She is also Chair of Pacific Homecare Services, and a Director of Pacific Co-operation Broadcasting Ltd and Pacific Inc Ltd (Le Va), and the Cook Islands Investment Corporation.

Caren is a Fellow of Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand.

Associate Professor El-Shadan Tautolo – Auckland. Cook Islands/Samoan

El-Shadan is the current Director of the Pacific Islands Families (PIF) Study, an ongoing birth cohort study of 1,398 Pacific families. The PIF Study has investigated a diverse range of health and development-related topics encompassing child and maternal health, men’s health, mental wellbeing and tobacco control. He is a member of ASPIRE 2025 and partnered on tobacco control research with a focus on cessation messages, harm reduction, and policy work concerning Pacific communities.

He has demonstrated expertise with both qualitative and quantitative research skills and holds significant leadership roles nationally and internationally within the broader Pacific community.

Lealailepule Edward Cowley – Auckland. Samoan

Edward is the current General Manager of Inspiring Ltd who provide the national training programme for stop smoking practitioners. He also leads the Tala Pasifika collective and works in partnership with Hāpai Te Hauora the largest iwi-owned Māori Public Health national organisation. He is an Auckland icon well known for his drag queen persona Buckwheat, he is well-known internationally and locally as an advocate and ambassador for the Rainbow community.

Edward is of Samoan descent and carries the Samoan Chieftain name Lealailepule.

Tuifa'sisina Maria Lafaele – Auckland. Samoan

Maria is a Project Manager for Planning Funding and Outcomes team at Auckland and Waitemata DHBs, she is currently seconded to coordinate the successful Pacific vaccination drives in Auckland. She has expertise in engaging Pacific communities and holds knowledge and insights into Pacific communities leading health interventions from recent COVID-19 vaccination success. She is experienced as a consultant and board member for various groups and has special interests in looking at the transition experienced by many families arriving and living in New Zealand.

Maria is of Samoan descent and carries the Samoan Chieftain name Tuifa’sisina.

Dr Sione Vaka – Auckland. Tongan

Sione Vaka is currently a senior lecturer at the Auckland University of Technology within the School of Clinical Science department since 2018. Academically, Sione has done extensive research within Nursing, Public Health and Health Services, Psychology, Clinical Sciences and Sociology. He was the Pacific Nurse Lead for Counties Manukau District Health Board, Mental Health between 2019 – 2021. Sione can also read, write, speak, understand and peer review in Tongan and is heavily involved within Tongan communities including youth.

Work programme

The Pacific Assurance Group works closely with Ministry of Health leadership to provide real-time assurance on:

  • programme planning
  • the key milestones and Ministry and sector performance metrics that will give assurance on delivery against Government expectations (ie, equitable monitoring and evaluation through to the end of 2025)
  • progress on delivery against milestones and metrics
  • engagement with Samoan, Tongan, Cook Islands, Niuean and other Pacific communities, and the health and other sectors on a strong narrative on the Government’s Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan
  • effective relationships with key stakeholders
  • capacity and capability of the Ministry to deliver on the above.
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