60th Anniversary of the Treaty of Friendship between Aotearoa New Zealand and Samoa- “Lifelong Friends – Uō Mamae”

Prime Minister

Te Reo Māori tauparapara…

Tapatapa tū ki te Rangi! 

Ki te Whei-ao!

Ki te Ao-mārama

Tihei mauri ora!

Stand at the edge of the universe!

of the spiritual world!

of the physical world!

It is the breath of creation

Formal acknowledgments…

  • [Your Highness Afioga Tuimalealiifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II and Masiofo]
  • Honourable Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa
  • Honourable Members of the Cabinet
  • Honourable Speaker of Parliament and parliamentarians
  • Honourable Chief Justice and members of the judiciary
  • Respected Church representatives
  • Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
  • Those who have travelled in the Aotearoa New Zealand delegation, including Govt. Ministers and representatives from all of the Parliamentary political parties

Talofa Lava / Malo le soifua manuia / Ahiahi mārie / Tēnā koutou katoa – warm greetings to you all on this blessed evening.

On behalf of all the guests from Aotearoa New Zealand here with me this evening, I thank you sincerely Prime Minister for your kind invitation to join the Head of State, the Government and people of Samoa in celebrating this special occasion, the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Friendship between our two countries.  We’ve been really touched by the sincerity of your welcome and the generosity of your hospitality. 

We are all deeply humbled to be back in the cradle of Polynesia.  These islands, the surrounding seas and skies, and  the people who call them home have special cultural significance to Māori. I’m delighted we have a number of iwi representatives with close ties to Samoa in the delegation - representing Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Toa. Our delegation includes esteemed representatives from the Samoan New Zealand community and parliamentarians from across the political spectrum, including the National Party, the Green Party, Act and Maori Party.  Indeed, the cross Parliamentary element of our delegation represents every party in Parliament and reflects the importance we felt in marking this milestone, it endures regardless of the particular Government at any given time. We have also been joined by a media contingent.

This is my third visit to Samoa as Prime Minister but it  is the time prior  that also makes these visits feel so special. My father Ross spent several years based here as the Police Liaison Officer for the South West Pacific and I have very fond memories of the occasions I was able to come and visit. My parents especially loved living here – the warmth of the hospitality and the people.

Over the last two and a half years we have been unable to gather at events such as this, due to a shared priority of keeping our people safe and well during a global pandemic, so I know we are all very grateful that we have been able to safely come together this evening here in beautiful Samoa. Samoa, as witnessed by the ava ceremony just concluded, is a country where ancient traditions and customs are respected and valued, and continue to thrive and where democratic constitutional principles and the rule of law humbly prevail. In so many ways, Samoa is like a beacon of stability in the middle of the Pacific.  Your resilience is legendary and I acknowledge all you have achieved over the past six decades.

I wanted to take a moment to pay special tribute to your frontline health and border workers for their tireless dedication during the response to the Covid-19 pandemic. I would also like to take this opportunity to pay respect to the families who have lost loved ones during the pandemic and the measles epidemic that preceded COVID. 

We acknowledge your incredible efforts to protect your people through targeted vaccination and associated public health programmes.  We were privileged to play a part in your COVID response through the provision of adult and paediatric vaccines, rapid antigen test kits, personal protection equipment and wrap around advice and support through the Polynesian Health Corridors pathway.  It almost goes without saying that Aotearoa New Zealand stands ready and able to assist Samoa further if you need additional and/or ongoing help. 

Our visit here today coincides with the much anticipated reopening of Samoa’s borders. The separation caused by Covid in the interests of keeping people safe, has of course taken it’s own toll. So just as we have felt that relief back in New Zealand of our borders reopening and the reconnection to the world ramping up, I know that here in Samoa you will be also be excited to welcome your family, friends and visitors back.

– And on the topic of friends, we are of course all gathered here tonight to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the signing on 1 August 1962 of the Treaty of Friendship between our two countries.  The signing occurred exactly two months after Samoa became the first Pacific island state to attain independence. 

As I think back to that historic day in August six decades ago, I feel honoured to be standing in the place where the Treaty was signed by the first Prime Minister of the Independent State of Samoa, Fiame Mata'afa Faumuina Mulinu'u II, the father of the current Prime Minister, and High Commissioner J B Wright..

It seems only apt that the Treaty was signed here in the former homestead of the great writer and story-teller, Tusitala Robert Louis Stevenson.  Tusitala wrote some memorable phrases during his short lifetime, including that “A friend is a gift you give yourself.”  I have no doubt that those who came before us had similar sentiments when they gifted us the Treaty of Friendship sixty years ago.

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.  It is an Agreement that affirms it is between two governments of “sovereign and equal status” and that the relationship between our two governments is founded on respect for human rights and “the purpose and principles of the Charter of the United Nations”.  It recognises that there is an intimate relationship between our two independent states based on “friendship, confidence, and a mutual endeavour to obtain for their peoples fuller opportunities for social progress”.  Moreover, both governments commit to maintain and strengthen “the bonds of amity and goodwill” that have existed between them, and to “provide for continued cooperation.” I want to take the opportunity here tonight to express Aotearoa New Zealand’s enduring commitment to this Treaty.

As we reminisce on what happened sixty years ago, I want to acknowledge our shared history and pay respect and tribute to those who went before us, who over the past six decades have built a unique bilateral partnership that is collaborative, complementary, tolerant and understanding.   Based on their vision, passion and vigour, and adherence to the principles and values of the Treaty, we have a bilateral relationship today that is mutually respectful, trusting and enduring.

The bonds of friendship developed under the Treaty cut across political party lines in Aotearoa New Zealand.  It enriches families, sport, church life, literature, arts and culture, commerce and education in both our nations.  Aotearoa New Zealand's multicultural character owes much to the rhythms shared by its pacific peoples.  Nowhere is this more so than in the contribution which Samoan New Zealanders make to our country.

Many people – past and present – have worked tirelessly to build our friendly relationship and keep it in good repair.  That’s not to say our relationship and commitment to the Treaty of Friendship has always been plain sailing.  Even the best of friends may disagree from time to time.  But just like the Māori proverb , “Mā te kōrero, ka ora” – a little chat can go a long way – we’ve never stopped communicating.  So we’ve worked to reconcile  differences as close friends and families often do. I believe our our bonds of friendship have become even stronger as we’ve travelled on a path together, building mutual respect and understanding in the process.  Tusitala probably said it best when writing that “We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.”

It’s no surprise then that the overriding theme we’ve chosen for our sixtieth anniversary of the Treaty is “Lifelong Friends – Uō Mamae”. 

In this context, I want to acknowledge the contributions of four “Lifelong Friends” under the Treaty of Friendship.

The first is the late Tofilau Eti Alesana, Samoa’s fifth prime minister, whose affection for Aotearoa New Zealand was unquestioned.  It was Tofilau's initiative to commence regular commemorations of the Treaty of Friendship between our two countries.  I’m sure he’s smiling down on us right now. 

I also want to acknowledge the numerous contributions over the decades of Samoa’s former head of state and third prime minister,  Tui Ātua Tupua Tamasese Tupuola Tufuga Efi,  and Samoa's longest serving prime minister and current Leader of the Opposition, Tuila'epa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi. 

Fourthly, I’d like to recognise Samoa's current and first female Prime Minister, the honourable Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, whose achievements are too numerous to list, but is a true friend of Aotearoa New Zealand and a role model for young Pasifika girls and women throughout the region.   On a personal note, it is an honour to stand with you on this occasion. The significance of it is not lost on me.

I’d ask you all to join me in a round of applause to honour and thank these four “Lifelong Friends”. Thank you / Fa’afetai lava.

In conclusion, the diplomatic bonds between Aotearoa New Zealand and Samoa have evolved significantly over the past 60 years, but the Treaty of Friendship has endured as the guiding light of our bilateral relationship helped along the way by “Lifelong Friends” who have kept us true to our course, principles and values.

In my mind, our friendship – with its long history that has included bloodshed, pain, reconciliation and progress, will always be defined by our people. Standing before you today with the daughter of the first signatory of the Treaty of Friendship on behalf of Samoa, alongside the New Zealand delegation which includes two Ministers of Samoan descent, I am reminded of that. One of our most recent Samoan MPs is Anae Neru Leavasa, the great grandchild of Tupua Tamasese Lealofi III, a leader in the Mau movement who died at the hands of police as they sought independence. Anae said in his maiden speech “I am deeply honoured to look back to where Samoa has come from, and where I stand here. A product of our history, a product of our joint relationship between our two countries.”

With our people, together, I am confident that our unique friendship will continue to expand and deepen.  And we pledge to recommit ourselves to walk together whatever paths the future may hold for us both as friends and neighbours in the region we each call home.

Soifua ma ia manuia / Ngā mihi nui /Thank you very much