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Welcome . . . North Otago Justice of the Peace Association president Paul Murray congratulates Frances Oakes on becoming a JP. PHOTO: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD

Oamaru has a second Tongan Justice of the Peace, after Frances Oakes was sworn in last Thursday.

Her appointment followed that of Waitaki Tongan Community president Kaliopeta Talanoa Palu, who was made a JP in June.

Mrs Oakes, who has worked as a psychiatric nurse for 37 years, was nominated for the role by Helen Algar, of Safer Waitaki, and the Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group.

She said supporting her people was the reason was she wanted to become a JP, one of only four of Tongan descent in the South Island.

“I’ve been thinking about the Pacific people in town and I’ve done a lot of work behind the scenes to get their voice heard. It’s also to be able to help them adjust to their new environment, so it’s a continuation of my work, really.

“I got tapped on the shoulder to take this up, and I thought, yes, I’ll do it.”

Tongan population – thought to be about 2000 – and with that have come increasing requests for help with visa applications and legal documents for people new to New Zealand.

Mrs Oakes believed it was important the town’s Tongan and wider Pasifika community had the option of visiting a Tongan JP, who better understood the culture and spoke the language.

“I think it’s good for people to have choice, and also it’s important to have that sense of belonging here – for people to feel they are at home and part of the community.

“It’s about the relationship .. people will feel more comfortable with someone that can speak the language and understand the cultural ways as well.

“It’s important that they are able to listen and communicate, and understand what they’re asking for.”

Mrs Oakes looked forward to helping people of all ethnicities with issues that required a JP.