Michael Niko Jones has been made a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in this year’s Queen’s birthday honours.
Based in Tāmaki Makaurau, Jones has been awarded the title for services to the Pacific community and youth.
Jones is a former rugby union player and coach who has played in World Cups for New Zealand and has since been a driver of economic and social development for Pacific people around New Zealand and the Pacific region.
Describing his reaction when he heard the news, Jones says, “I was taken aback to be honest as it isn’t something that you expect, and obviously, when we do our mahi in the community it is never for any recognition, only to be agents of positive change and transformation. It is a privilege, and we as Maori and PI prefer to do it under the radar and low profile, so it was a huge surprise.
“The honour is not about me, it is more about our community, particularly those who have gone before to pioneer and slash and burn a way forward for our people here in Aotearoa.
“It is also about those who are doing great things in so many fields in society and most importantly for the next generation, that we as as Pasifika can do and become what ever we dream and aspire to.”
Jones founded and is Chairman of the Village Community and Youth Trust, which emerged in 2003 out of a youth drop-in initiative in West Auckland to keep Pacific and Māori youth out of gang activity.
“I am a true believer that it takes a village to raise a child,” says Jones, “And I am a product of a village that raised me and supported me, stood by me, through the hard times and the good times.”
He launched the Village Sports Academy in 2010 as part of the wider work of the Village Trust. He championed the establishment of Village Trust’s mentoring programme targeting Pacific students to stay in school and fulfil their educational potential, and the Street level Learning Academy for 15 to 18 year olds who had dropped out of school.
Jones was instrumental in establishing the Pacific Peoples Advancement Trust, which established and continues to sponsor the Pacific Advance Senior School, opened in 2015 to raise educational achievement of Pacific students who have traditionally struggled to fulfil their learning potential in mainstream settings.
He is a Trustee of a number of Pacific economic and social transformational organisations, including the Community Christian Fellowship (CCF) in West Auckland.
“As a Christian, my mahi is a calling, a mission, an extension of my faith- to love and serve our fellow man, particularly those most vulnerable, it is a privilege,” says Jones.
Jones was appointed Community Partnerships Manager at the Auckland University of Technology in 2001 and advocated for a Pacific seat on AUT’s executive, which resulted in the establishment of the Pasifika Advancement Office in 2004.
Following the tsunami affecting Samoa and Tonga in 2009, Mr Jones assisted with organising the collection and distribution of emergency supplies to affected communities.