Tēnā koutou katoa, Talofa lava.
On behalf of all the guests from New Zealand here with me today, thank you to His Highness, the Head of State, and to the Government and people of Samoa for your warm welcome to us.
Thank you to Prime Minister Tuilaepa for your friendship and generous hospitality.
I would also like to acknowledge the large Parliamentary delegation that has travelled to Samoa with me, together with representatives from the Samoan New Zealand community, many of whom are household names in both our countries.
Our visit today follows that of the New Zealand Governor-General, the Right Honourable Sir Jerry Mateparae, who joined celebrations of the 50th anniversary of Samoan independence.
It also follows the visit by the Mayor of Auckland, Len Brown, and a trade delegation in July, and, more recently, by Sir Graham Henry, Victor Vito and the Webb-Ellis Trophy.
It is my third visit to Samoa as Prime Minister in just over three years.
It is a real honour for me to be here, standing in the place where the Treaty of Friendship was signed 50 years ago today. That was a historic occasion reflecting the change from a colonial relationship to that of two governments of sovereign and equal states.
Today our relationship is in great shape.
At the heart of that is the Treaty of Friendship signed by our two countries in 1962, and which remains as relevant today as it was 50 years ago. It serves as the umbrella under which a wide range of government-to-government cooperation and activity takes place.
is the only Treaty of Friendship that New Zealand has, and serves as a
special reminder of the close relationship between Samoa and New
It is a relationship built upon our shared Polynesian history, cultural and family ties, and numerous people-to-people links.
Samoans make a rich and important contribution to the fabric of New Zealand society. The arts and culture of Samoan New Zealanders have enriched New Zealand, and helped form part of our national identity.
Many of New Zealand’s national and international achievements reflect the contributions of highly talented Samoans – whether in arts, literature, sport, film-making, music, business, or a host of other areas. Those success stories are as much Samoan as New Zealand.
This is reflected in the delegation travelling with me. We have political leaders, church leaders, sports heroes, business people and academics. These are all prominent and proud representatives of Samoan New Zealand communities.
We also have a proud history of regional cooperation, including through the Pacific Islands Forum.
In that context, I want to acknowledge the service and leadership of my friend Prime Minister Tuilaepa. His advocacy for regional approaches on political, security and education issues underpin his mana as the region’s senior statesman. He championed the establishment last year of the Polynesian Leaders’ Group, which collectively promotes and protects Polynesian cultures, traditions and languages, and which aims to achieve greater prosperity in the region.
In the time we have worked together I have appreciated the Prime Minister’s insights on regional issues. As the longest serving Prime Minister in the Pacific, the experience he brings to bear is invaluable. I am now coming to the end of my term as Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, and I am very grateful for Samoa’s support for a range of initiatives and measures that have been taken forward this year.
New Zealand and Samoa have both been through a lot in the past three years.
We have seen great tragedies. And our respective responses to natural disasters in each other’s countries demonstrate to me the special bond we share.
Rebuilding after these natural disasters has drawn our two countries closer together.
The southern coast of Upolu, Manono and parts of Savai’i were devastated by the Pacific Tsunami in September 2009. This disaster gave rise to an outpouring of support from New Zealanders at all levels.
On learning of the tsunami, the New Zealand Government pledged immediate assistance to the disaster relief effort. We sent emergency personnel from the New Zealand Defence Force, and the Ministries of Health and Civil Defence. We also sent substantial quantities of relief supplies, and helped to get aid provided by international agencies here more quickly.
That initial relief response quickly evolved into a major
recovery effort. New Zealand NGOs and members of the public also made
The people of Samoa have been rightly praised for their strong and locally managed recovery effort.
I am pleased to see this is largely complete.
Samoa has rehoused over 500 families, restored roading, power, communications and water infrastructure. It has also maintained essential health and education services while rebuilding or relocating four primary and two secondary schools. Coastal and marine zones have also been cleared of debris, and people are recovering their livelihoods.
Samoa is well on the way to economic recovery.
In the same vein, the Samoan people responded swiftly and generously in the wake of the Canterbury earthquakes and the Pike River Mine disaster.
As befitting friends, you were there for us when we needed you.
On behalf of the people of New Zealand I would like to thank you in person. Your friendship and support will always be remembered.
This afternoon, I will be opening the new Poutasi Memorial Community Hall.
This has been a project driven by the people of Poutasi with the support of New Zealanders. It shows the spirit of friendship in which we have worked with Samoa in the post-tsunami recovery.
I visited Poutasi shortly after the tsunami struck the southern coast of Upolu.
What I saw then will stay with me forever.
Today, not only do I acknowledge the efforts of all of those who have assisted with the recovery and reconstruction effort, but I honour the memory of those who lost their lives in that tragic event.
The new Poutasi Memorial Community Hall stands as a monument to those who died and to all that the people of Poutasi and Samoa have accomplished since the tsunami struck.
But New Zealand and Samoa are linked by more than shared adversity.
When he visited Samoa last year, Foreign Minister McCully signed a Joint Commitment for Development with Prime Minister Tuilaepa. This provides a framework for New Zealand’s $23m a year development support to Samoa.
A major element of that support has been the successful
primary school fee grants scheme which we have funded with Australia for
the past three years.
When we met earlier this morning, the Prime Minister and I agreed that in marking 50 years of the Treaty of Friendship, we would make a further investment in Samoa’s young people.
That is why I was pleased to announce that, together, we will introduce fee-free education to public secondary schools for students in Years 9-11, and make a similar contribution to Mission secondary schools.
This policy will improve access to secondary school education. Secondary students will no longer have their education cut short by an inability to afford school fees. It will also increase the resources available to schools to invest in the learning materials needed by their teachers and students - boosting educational standards and improving outcomes for young people in Samoa.
There is still further work needed to finalise the design of this programme, but I can confirm this new policy will be resourced through a contribution of $5m in its initial years as a gift from New Zealand to mark Samoa’s 50th anniversary of independence.
It recognises the central role that education has played in Samoa’s development over that time, and will continue to play in the future.
The Treaty of Friendship states that our two governments will work together to promote the welfare of the people of Samoa.
Later today I will visit a great example of that principle in action.
A New Zealand Defence Force surgical team is currently in Samoa as part of Exercise Tropic Twilight 2012.
They will conduct minor surgeries and medical programmes in a number of locations across Samoa. Defence Force engineers will also conduct repairs to some clinics and hospitals.
The deployment has been planned with the New Zealand High Commission in Samoa and Samoan health officials.
Today New Zealand and Samoa have a strong and deep relationship, based on the bonds of friendship, cooperation and respect.
Those bonds have evolved significantly over the past 50 years and I am confident that our friendship will continue to grow in the years to come.
It is my privilege to take part in the celebrations marking 50 years of friendship between Samoa and New Zealand.