Top NZ Tonga businesses recognised at awards dinner

The New Zealand Tonga Business Council (NZTBC) celebrated outstanding business achievement at an inaugural special awards dinner at Alexandra Park in Auckland recently.

The Celebrating Tonga Business Excellence Dinner held on November 2 was a sold out event, attracting more than 200 of the top businesses, entrepreneurs, politicians, friends and family,  It was a sparkling event capping off a remarkable year for Tonga.

NZTBC Vice Chairwoman Rachel Afeaki-Taumoepeau led the night on behalf of Chairman Sione Taufa who was in the United States attending the International Visitor Leadership Programme.

The dinner highlighted the cross-section of businesses, entrepreneurs and leaders who were having an impact at many different levels between New Zealand and Tonga Mrs Afeaki-Taumoepeau said.


Minoru Nishi of Nishi Trading awarded Tonga Exporters Business into NZ. (photo credit: Nishi Trading)

Speaking in a media release  Ms Afeaki-Taumoepeau said, “In 2011 the council celebrated with Digicel; 2014 with Pacific Business Trust; 2015 with Her Royal Highness Princess Royal Pilolevu Tuita and today – 2017 – the Inaugural Tonga Business Excellence Dinner recognises and celebrates businesses, business leaders and entrepreneurs across six categories: Women in Business; Business Corporate Executives; Exporters from Tonga NZ Mainstream Business into Tonga; Business Entrepreneurs and Social Enterprises with the special recognition Tongan Navigators in Entrepreneurship and Leadership.”

Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) New Zealand has shared a close relationship with NZTBC and were in attendance on the night.  PTI NZ Trade Commissioner Michael Greenslade gave a video greeting played to the audience on the night.  In his speech, Mr Greenslade recalled being a founding member of the NZ Tonga Business Council up until where it was today.

Mr Greenslade said, “The Council was formed by an enthusiastic group of people, many of whom were indigenous Tongans based in New Zealand.”

He also recollected how the Council showed its considerable power and influence during the 2015 World Cup, where they played a part in mobilising the community.

Who could forget the rousing support for Tonga’s rugby team who were greeted on arrival at Auckland Airport with crowds of jubilant supporters for the first game of the Rugby World Cup he said.

“The Council has moved on a lot since then.  It is now a mature council, very much part of the furniture in the Auckland Pacific community and a very valued and important organisation between the two Governments of Tonga and New Zealand and we could not be without the institution that we now have today.”

This year, PTI New Zealand continued its warm relationship with the council and Tongan Government and businesses through its Path to Market workshop programmes and through private sector companies such as Tupuanga Coffee and Nishi Trading who launched the Mai e Nima – Give Me 5, healthy eating programme in New Zealand in September.

The two guest speakers included newly appointed Minister of Pacific Peoples Aupito Sua William Sio and Jenny Salesa, Minister of Building and Construction and Ethnic Communities and the first New Zealand Tongan born and Tongan speaking minister.

Mrs Afeaki-Taumoepeau said it was important to identify and celebrate business excellence and the impact and influence the recipients were having across New Zealand and Tonga, shaping future relations between the countries.

The event also shone in its lead up to Tonga’s National Day on November 4 celebrating Tongan identity and culture.  It also coincided with the Mate Ma’a Tonga Rugby League team presence in New Zealand for the World Cup of Rugby League.  The first match against Toa Samoa was highly anticipated and a spectacle for both sides.  Once again Tonga’s supporters came out in droves at the airport and painting Hamilton stadium red – again reminiscent of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

The inaugural Business Excellence award recipients were:

Women in Business: Emeline Afeaki-Mafileo (Affirming Works, Fofola Consultancy, Tupu’anga Coffee); Eithne Curran (Eithne Curran); Kimberley Ramsay-Reid; and Jennifer Boggiss (Heilala Vanilla).

Business Executive: Jack Bourke (Digicel International); Rachel Skudder (BEST Training); Debbie Sorrenson (Pacific Futures); Saia Latu (Trow Group).

Exporter from Tonga: Heilala Vanilla (Jennifer Boggiss); Nishi Trading (Minoru Nishi); Tinopai (Pousima Afeaki); Tupu’anga Coffee (Albert Mafileo).

NZ Mainstream Business into Tonga: Alrite Steel & Service Ltd (Bhaskar Sharma); Pacific Direct Line (Alan Foote); Fonterra (Eun Hee Park); Scenic Hotel (Leigh Lewis).

Businessmen Entrepreneurs: Butch Riechelmann (BR & Associates Ltd); Vaine Niuhulu (Coin Total Upgrade); Maka Pailate; Matt Bourke (Th1nk Project Ltd).

Social Enterprise: Langimalie Clinic (Dr Glen Doherty); Affirming Works (Emeline Afeaki—Mafileo); Dr Simione Lolohea (Surgeons on Clarence).

Special Recognition –

Business Entrepreneur Navigator: Lopi Faleafa (Faleafa Investments Consultancy Ltd).

Business Leadership Navigator: Leopino Foliaki (PWC).

Our thanks to NZ Tonga Business Council Rachel Afeak- Taumoepeau, Maria, Joanna Bourke and PCF for their media release and information used in this story.

For more information please contact Eleanor Ikinofo at






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