16 May 2024

Winston Peters confirms NZ First's plan to support Samoan citizenship bill through first reading

2:02 pm on 16 May 2024

By Khalia Strong, PMN

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters

Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

NZ First leader Winston Peters has confirmed his party will support Teanau Tuiono's member's bill right through parliament, but says there's still areas to be worked out.

New Zealand First plans to continue supporting a bill that would restore the entitlement of citizenship for a group of Samoans who had it stripped in 1982.

But while Vaovasamanaia Winston Peters confirmed the party intends to see the bill all the way through the house, they would also like to see some adjustments.

"Let's see what happens with the selection committee, but that's our intention, to get where a number of the people in that bill want it to go, because that's always been our view."

The Restoring Citizenship Removed by Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act 1982 passed its first reading last month. The bill aims to restore entitlements to a group of Samoans who were born between 1924 and 1949.

Speaking to PMN political reporter 'Alakihihifo Vailala, Vaovasamanaia says some changes might be needed to Green Party MP Teanau Tuiono's original bill.

"We believe that there's a category of Samoan who are entitled to [citizenship], but not as framed in the bill from the Greens member.

"I think he's got it wrong, but to correct it, we had to get it to the select committee, so that's why we voted for it."

There was some surprise support from the opposite side of the chamber for Green MP Teanau Tuiono's Restoring Citizenship Removed by Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act 1982 Bill as it passed its first reading, 10 April 2024.

There was some surprise support from the opposite side of the chamber for Green MP Teanau Tuiono's Restoring Citizenship Removed by Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act 1982 Bill as it passed its first reading, 10 April 2024. Photo: Johnny Blades / VNP

Green Party MP Teanau Tuiono was pleasantly surprised when Pacific Mornings broke the news about NZ First's plans to continue supporting his bill.

"That's good to have that confirmed. And we'll work with them to see what we can do to make this practical for everybody that's engaging in the process as well."

Tuiono welcomes feedback and even criticism on the bill, saying this is why the select committee stage is important.

"This is how parliament deals with complex issues, that's the nature of the job you actually just have to commit to sorting it out, so I'm hoping that the voices that people bring to the select committee puts pressure on National, saying 'come on guys, let's sit down try to find some solutions here which will work for the community and also work with the parties as well'."

Tuiono hopes the National Party will change their opinion on the bill, saying discussions will have implications on New Zealand's ongoing relationship with Samoa and the Pacific.

"We're doing this in a way which recognises that importance, that respects that relationship, is what we should expect from government parties, and the Prime Minister has so far failed to understand that."

A historic vote

By voting in line with the opposition, it was the first time the ACT and New Zealand First parties had broken step with their coalition partner National during this term.

But Vaovasamanaia says the vote to approve the bill past the first reading shouldn't come as a surprise from the "party of common sense and logic".

"Some of us were around when the law was changed.

"New Zealand First, as a party and when it comes to foreign affairs, it's done more for the Pacific people than all the other parties put together.

"I studied it very quickly, and then called up a few experienced Samoans from way back, the 'good old way in Samoa', and I got the advice."

What happens now?

Community feedback is open until the end of the month, and this can be done in English or Samoan.

Tuiono encourages people to have their say online or in person.

"If people want to make an oral submission, which I think is always a powerful thing to do because having MPs listen to you in person gives it more gravity in my opinion, and so come to the governance and administration select committee and have your say."

Vaovasamanaia says discussions must also include Samoa's government and leaders.

"I'm having regard to Prime Minister Fiame' saying to me they're concerned about depopulation. This could very quickly go wrong, so I want to know what they think as well."

After submissions have been received, the select committee will provide recommendations to the House before MPs will be able to vote at the second reading.

-This article was originally published by PMN.

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