Southland community mourns loss of Pacific youth leader

A prominent Pacific youth leader in the Southland community, Sootagaoaiga (Sam) Lavea passed away in early July 2016 when the car he was driving crashed into a large power pole on State Highway 1, near Invercargill.


According to Lavea was returning home from work in Gore when the crash happened.

The 23-year-old was more active in his community than most, as a church member, sports player and as a youth leader.

Luisa Kuresa, Sam’s partner, says he was involved in everything.

“Sam was the sort of person who was always there no matter who you were, and always made people feel welcome,” Luisa said.

His father, Reverend Taoa Lavea, and mother, Tioata, moved the family to Invercargill from Auckland in 2012, when his father became the minister at the Samoan Methodist Church.

Due to their involvement in the church, the family moved every seven years.

Sam is survived by his parents, one sister, Serafina, three brothers, Junior, Tupu and Uilealea and his partner Luisa.

"He was very shy when he came, but he definitely grew into the Southland spirit," says Luisa.

She adds that Sam loved his Samoan culture and was especially passionate about taking it down south. He volunteered every year for Polyfest and taught the Southland Boys' High School Polyfest group.

"He really got involved. He was a big part of the community."

A talented musician, Lavea was the church piano player, and he was a leader with the Kiwi Can programme, run by the Graeme Dingle Foundation.

Kiwi Can is a values and life skills programme, designed for primary and intermediate school students.

According to Luisa, Sam would spend Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday working in Gore, on Thursdays he would work in Bluff and every second Friday he would go to Halfmoon Bay School on Stewart Island.

He also worked at the Lorneville Freezing Works and was training at Yunca.

Graeme Dingle Foundation Southland Deputy Chair Dean Addie said Lavea's death was a tragedy that had affected many people in the community.

"Sam was a fine young man with a wide network of family, friends and colleagues, who will miss him terribly. Our priority right now is to support all these people."

According to the facebook page R.I.L So’otagaoaiga – Sam Lavea, liked by over 400 people, Sam’s final service will take place on Friday 15 July, 10.00am at Stadium Southland, Isabella Street, Invercargill.