Peter Cordtz’s father died when he was five years old.
It taught Cordtz a lesson about the value of insurance he’s now working to spread among Māori and Pacific Island families through a new $100,000 education scheme.
Recalling his father, Cordtz, who now works for the government-funded Commission for Financial Capability, said: “To me he was a hero, to my mum he was a protector.”
Even in his death Cordtz’s father did not leave the family unprotected because he’d had the foresight to take out life insurance.
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“My father came to New Zealand for the same reason my Māori mother left the safety of her ancestral lands in the far north: the opportunity to build a better life, not just for themselves but to provide more for their children than they ever had.”
“They both taught me the importance of the past as an anchor for our identity, but also the value of vision in providing for the future,” Cordtz said.
“That vision led them to forgo welfare benefits for young families in favour of a government home ownership scheme in the mid-1960s.”
“It also led my father to make an unusual decision for a Samoan immigrant, one he made less than 12 months before he passed away in a car accident and which continues to have an impact on me and my family today. He insured his life.”
The commission has entered a partnership with the Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ) to run an education programme targeted at Māori and Pasifika communities, where underinsurance levels are high.
The aim, Cordtz said, was to give those communities information, tools and support to make better decisions around protecting whanau and their belongings.
One of the partnership’s aims was counter “misinformation” as sometimes financial wisdom sourced from respected family and community members was incorrect.
“We see a lot of misinformation in families and communities and it’s based on what seems to be a small circle of trust,” said Cordtz. “The problem is that it creates even greater risk for the most vulnerable.”
Tim Grafton from ICNZ said the partnership sprang out of the commission’s Māori and Pacific Island money education programmes.
“Evaluation of these programmes, and community consultation, has identified both a lack of understanding and high levels of misinformation that influence decision-making among many Māori and Pasifika,” Grafton said.
It wasn’t only house and life insurance that could prevent financial hardship. Car and contents cover were also key.
“We hear from people whose car has been in an accident or gets stolen and there’s no money to fix or replace it. It’s the means for getting to work, getting the kids to school and keeping the family going,” Cordtz said.
Without insurance, events like these can result in families having to incur debt, Cordtz said.
Cordtz paid tribute to his father’s decision to insure his life.
“I don’t know how my mum, who was only 26, would have coped if he hadn’t. I can’t see how she would have been able to keep the roof over our heads.”
“She paid off the mortgage on our house and gave me and my sister the stability and security of a permanent home, with no question of having to move around at the whim of a landlord. That house provided a safety net for us and our extended family for over 30 years.”
“My father’s foresight and my mum’s wisdom enabled me to be the first from either my Samoan or Māori families to gain a university degree and have opportunities neither of my parents enjoyed.”