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Wastelines expand as economies recede

The World Today - Friday, 27 March , 2009 12:54:00

Reporter: Kerri Ritchie

TANYA NOLAN: The New Zealand Government says the recession is having a big impact on obesity rates,
and in many cases is exacerbating the problem.

It's released its latest report card on obesity, and it's found Pacific Islanders living in New
Zealand are among the most affected.

The study shows many are malnourished because they simply can't afford healthy food.

New Zealand correspondent Kerri Ritchie reports.

(Sound of Joanna laughing and speaking with her family)

KERRI RITCHIE: Doctors have told Samoan woman Joanna Fuimaono she must lose weight.

JOANNA FUIMAONO: If I die tomorrow, I'm happy.

Some people might look at me and think I'm silly, but hey, no, I'm happy.

KERRI RITCHIE: Joanna Fuimaono moved from Samoa to Auckland to give her children more
opportunities.

But it's a decision she often regrets.

JOANNA FUIMAONO: I have a lot of regrets that I have come to New Zealand. Basically, because I have
become victim of my own choice.

We think that coming away from our homes is better, and we never appreciate it until we come here.

We get old, we can't grow anything, we can't weave. Everything that you do, the tax man takes it
all.

KERRI RITCHIE: She says healthy food in New Zealand has become too expensive for many Pacific
Islanders.

JOANNA FUIMAONO: I eat pig head, that's, ah, trotters (phonetic).

I've lost a bit of weight, and then my family used to say to me, "No, you're eating this". My
husband says to the girls, "Don't give her anything anymore."

KERRI RITCHIE: The New Zealand Government is worried about the increasing number of Pacific
Islanders who can't afford meat.

Instead families are turning to less healthy options, like mutton flaps.

Dr Colin Tukuitonga is chief executive of the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs.

COLIN TUKUITONGA: The fact is that there are better cuts of meat for people, and how can mutton
flaps, which is more than 90 per cent fat, be good for people? It's not even good for animals.

Of course cooking makes a difference, but if you've got a dreadful product to start with, no matter
how you dress it up, it's not going to be good for you.

KERRI RITCHIE: Chris Ritchie is the spokesman for the New Zealand Meat Association.

CHRIS RITCHIE: We know what is good for us and what is not good for us, and with most things it's
having a proper balance.

KERRI RITCHIE: Mr Ritchie says education programs are underway to help Pacific Islanders make the
most of cheaper cuts of meat.

CHRIS RITCHIE: The meat industry has been working closely with the Pacific Island countries over a
number of years now to try and help with educating people in terms of the preparation of the
product, to trim the excess fat off, and then the cooking methods.

Barbecuing and grilling, you remove some of the fat, but also if you're doing a stew, which is
quite popular in certain places there, you skim the fat off the top, just as we have been taught in
terms of our cooking.

So, the industry does see that it has a responsibility to assist in the proper preparation and use
of that product, and we don't resile from that all, and we have been active in that sense.

KERRI RITCHIE: Joanna Fuimaono says religion is also playing a part in the rise in unhealthy eating
habits.

She says many Pacific Island parents are feeling the pressure to give money to the church, which
leaves them with very little to spend on good food for their children.

JOANNA FUIMAONO: I really feel that they need to develop and put back to the families that are
actually giving, instead of just taking, taking, taking.

So therefore there should be a better process, whereby people start to understand now that this is
not Samoa, this is not Tonga, that this is New Zealand and 90 per cent of everything is resourced
from money, marketry.

But back home, it's the other way round. You can go, get the taros out; and here you can't do that.

So therefore there should be more awareness in terms of who can give a lot more, and who can't.

TANYA NOLAN: That's Joanna Fuimaona, who's a Samoan woman living in Auckland.