Newshub Nation Backstory: New Green MP Efeso Collins shares faith journey, family's struggles with political profile

How well do we really know our politicians and the personal values and experiences they bring to decisions that affect us all?          

Newshub Nation's Backstory series goes behind the scenes into our political leaders' lives and childhood photo albums.       

Efeso Collins was born in Auckland's Middlemore Hospital, down the road from his family's current apartment in Ōtāhuhu.  

Collins said that as the youngest of six, "In a good Samoan family, that means you have very little voice, if any voice at all".  

Collins' mother was a cleaner at Middlemore and his father was a Pentecostal church minister and a taxi driver who worked long hours.   

"His diction was beautiful as well," Collins said.   

"Dad would role model speaking good English, he didn't like it when our words weren't crisp."  

The emphasis on diction lead to Collins and his sister wanting to be newsreaders, "because Dad wanted us to be crisp".  

His father's involvement in the church meant that the family's life was split between two distinct worlds.

"A lot of things we were doing at school kind of contradicted what we were doing at home," he said.   

Collins and his family spent time throughout his childhood between Auckland and Samoa and said, "We were challenged by the New Zealand world and the Samoan world, trying to get the best of both and understand that we were navigating two very different cultural worlds."  

He played softball and rugby as a child, "but in comparison to my brothers I was useless, so I needed to find something for me that I could be known for".  

This led him to try debating, where he excelled at university.  

"I met so many different people at university and I realised there were lots of people who didn't go to church," he said.  

While studying metaphysics, Collins was told by his lecturer God is a woman, "And I thought 'Oh my gosh, wait till I tell dad that God's a woman'.  

"So, I went home, and he said, 'Oh my goodness, what are we going to do?' We were confounded by all of this."  

Collins saw University as the coming together of different ideas, but faith has remained a core part of his life.  

"As I've evolved as a person, I've realised there are some things that I held really strongly, and now those are things that I'm flexible with," he said.  

Around ten years ago, Collins came out against marriage equality.  

"As my thinking has evolved, I accept that people love in different ways, that people are allowed to love the way they choose."  

Collins has now apologised to many, particularly the Pasifika rainbow community, "because I know people were hurt by those comments," he said.  

Collins has been married to his wife Fia for eleven years.  

Fia said that she was "drawn to his passion for people and he was really down to earth".  

Fia said that while the family is proud of Collins' achievements, his life in the public eye "can be quite challenging for our family.  

"I'm quite vocal and sometimes being in the public eye makes me feel like that voice is silenced. 

"In certain situations, you have to look and sound a particular way," she said.  

During the 2022 Auckland mayoralty race, in which Collins was a frontrunner against Wayne Brown, his family faced death threats, one of which was taken seriously by police.   

"Our family has been through so much, and I remember the challenge around the death threats has been that they had to put up with them," a tearful Collins said.  

"We choose to be advocates, but it's come at quite a personal cost.  

"I often think of our eldest daughter, because we sat down, and she asked, 'Why would people want to kill us'."  

Collins said that he feels a huge sense of responsibility for his family, "and it breaks me that they have to go through this.  

"That's an experience that we've managed and navigated and I'm grateful to Fia and my girls because they've never walked away from this passion we have to speak for the community."  

With a lack of Pacific Island representation in the next Government, Collins is determined to be a strong voice from the opposition benches.  

"People are relying on us to speak on their behalf so that's what we're going to do," he said. 

Collins said that he "brings the hood" to Parliament.  

"When I say the hood, I mean I bring attitude, I bring a strong voice, and I bring a cultural relevance and respect that we might not have seen before."  

Collins thinks that people don't know what the real South Auckland is like.   

"I think we're pretty hip, pretty cool, we're relaxed but we are strong and we're bold and that's what I'm going to bring to Parliament."

Watch the full video for more. 

Watch Newshub Nation 9:30am Saturday/10am Sunday on Three & Three Now, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. 

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.