Building and Construction Minister Jenny Salesa: A backgrounder

Minister for Building and Construction Jenny Salesa

Labour has appointed Jenny Salesa as the new Minister for Building and Construction.

Ms Salesa has become the first-ever Tongan-born and raised Cabinet Minister, and also assumes responsibility for the Ethnic Communities portfolio.

She is also Associate Minister for the Housing and Urban Development, Health, and Education portfolios, and is the MP for Manukau East.

“I am immensely proud, as an immigrant and as a Pacific woman, to show that anyone who comes here can dream big and can be successful, through perseverance and hard work, at whatever they set out to do,” Ms Salesa says.

Ms Salesa’s family came to New Zealand when she was 16, and the next few years were spent sharing homes with other families in overcrowded conditions.

She attended the University of Auckland, and graduated with degrees in Education and Law, as well as helping to found the Pacific Island Law Students’ Association.

“New Zealand was a land of opportunity for me, and as a Cabinet Minister I can play a part in ensuring it remains so for everyone who chooses to live here.”

Back in March this year as Labour’s Skills and Training spokesperson, Ms Salesa said construction firms reported that it was harder to find skilled workers, showing the Government’s failure to invest in training was contributing to the housing crisis.

“The construction industry is finding it hard to get the workers it needs, with 58% of firms reporting vacancies in hard-to-fill jobs, according to Statistics New Zealand,” she said.

“We need to build a lot more houses, and that means a lot more construction workers. Labour will introduce Dole for Apprenticeships to incentivise construction firms to take on apprentices.

“We’ll also make three years’ tertiary education and training fees free, which will help more people get the qualifications the construction industry needs.

“Training and upskilling our construction workforce is a key plank of Labour’s comprehensive housing plan. It will facilitate our 100,000-house KiwiBuild plan, and our commitment to building thousands more state houses,” Ms Salesa said.

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