2 Aug 2022

Jacinda Ardern stresses unique nature of New Zealand-Samoa friendship

5:37 am on 2 August 2022

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has acknowledged New Zealand's unique relationship with Samoa, as the two countries celebrated the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Friendship.

In an evening of music, dancing, and reconnection, New Zealanders were welcomed back to the place which cemented a unique relationship.

PM Jacinda Ardern gives a speech In Samoa

Jacinda Ardern is making her third visit to Samoa as prime minister. Photo: RNZ / Giles Dexter

The ceremony took place at the homestead of one of Samoa's most famous adopted sons, Tusitala Robert Louis Stevenson.

Exactly 60 years before, on the same spot, Samoa and New Zealand signed the Treaty of Friendship.

"Tusitala wrote some memorable phrases during his short lifetime, including that 'a friend is a gift you give yourself'," Jacinda Ardern said.

"I have no doubt that those who came before us had similar sentiments when they gifted us the Treaty of Friendship 60 years ago."

In her third visit to Samoa as prime minister, Ardern said the occasion was about reflection, reconciliation and celebration.

"The Treaty is representative of the unique relationship between Samoa and Aotearoa New Zealand. We don't have a treaty of this kind with any other country," she told the crowd.

This anniversary is particularly significant for Samoan Prime Minister Fiamē Naomi Mata'afa.

Her father was prime minister when Samoa gained independence in June 1962, and two months later when the Treaty was signed.

"Personally, I feel an emotional twinge, as this will be the second time this year that history has repeated itself," she said.

The two prime ministers drunk 'ava, cut cakes, and exchanged gifts, with Fiamē given photos of her father taken in 1962.

But there were sombre moments as well, with Fiamē paying respect to the people of New Zealand and Samoa who lost their lives to Covid-19.

"We are aware that many of those in New Zealand were of Polynesian heritage, including Samoans," she said.

Samoan Prime Minister Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa

Samoan Prime Minister Fiamē Naomi Mata'afa has been paying respect to Covid-19 victims from both her own country and Aotearoa. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Other party leaders join PM for trip

Ardern and a New Zealand delegation were the first international visitors to Samoa since its borders re-opened, arriving on a RNZAF flight on Monday afternoon.

Highlighting the bipartisan nature of the trip, representatives from all parties in New Zealand's Parliament made the trip.

They were ready to leave party politics in Aotearoa, for a couple of days at least.

"This is about New Zealand, it's not about our individual political parties. And the commitment to the Treaty of Friendship and the continuing deepening of that goes forward, under whatever government," said National leader Christopher Luxon.

ACT Party David Seymour, who is sometimes critical of foreign trips, said this one had a clear objective.

"I think it's good to be here showing the Samoan government and people that across our political spectrum, we're here in friendship," he said.

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer spoke about her family, including her Samoan mokopuna.

"We have a unique relationship, and it's a unique one that goes beyond 60 years. We're really proud to be here, we'll always make sure we have a voice and lobby for our Pasifika tuakana."

Also on the delegation was Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio.

He paid tribute to the dynamic and growing love between the two nations, and acknowledged New Zealand's Samoan population was even larger than Samoa's population.

"Our linkages back to the islands are never-ceasing," he said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's delegation in Samoa on 1/8/2022.

Jacinda Ardern and other New Zealand politicians in Apia. Photo: RNZ / Giles Dexter

Bilateral talks later today

But if yesterday was about acknowledging the past and celebrating the present, Tuesday will be about the future when the two prime ministers meet for bilateral talks.

Discussions on climate change are a certainty, with Ardern identifying it as one of New Zealand's and Samoa's joint priorities.

"As is the case with leaders that you've met several times, these aren't new conversations. It's where can we go to next on the initiatives that we've already said we're interested in working together on," she told media in Apia.

The delegation flies back on Tuesday afternoon - on the ground for less than 24 hours, but departing with a stronger friendship between the two countries.

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