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A unique event: Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga speaks at the ceremony in Auckland to mark New Zealand's occupation of German Samoa.

This special commemoration marks a unique event in the history of New Zealand and Samoa. At the outset of the First World War, New Zealand largely considered itself an outpost of Britain in the South Seas. Over the many decades New Zealand has come to recognise the value of our neighbours: Australia, Asia and nations of the South Pacific.

The common history that New Zealand and Samoa share has its origins in the occupation of German Samoa by New Zealand military forces one hundred years ago. This occupation was undertaken at the request of Britain and marks New Zealand's first military action in the Pacific.

The occupation started a relationship that has developed through the decades to one that we all enjoy today. It is a relationship that has had its peaks and troughs. It is a relationship that is based on friendship, shared values and a common vision for the future.

It is this common vision and strong friendship that our ancestors from New Zealand and Samoa expected and hoped for when they signed the Treaty of Friendship between New Zealand and Samoa in 1962. This relationship with Samoa has in turn helped New Zealand move from being a remote outpost of the British Empire to being an established Pacific nation.

New Zealand is now home to nearly 145,000 Samoans and Samoan is now the third most spoken language in New Zealand after English and Maori. The impact of Samoans in New Zealand has left an indelible mark on the identity and culture of New Zealand and will continue to do so. There are now Samoan members of Parliament, councillors and representatives in local government and others prominent in all walks of New Zealand life.

The contribution of Samoans to all aspects of New Zealand society can be found in things like the literary arts, culture, sports, music, business and community service. Samoans' significant contribution to New Zealand society is epitomised in the award last year of New Zealand's highest honour to Professor Maualaivao Albert Wendt. He is now a member of the Order of New Zealand, which is restricted to twenty living New Zealanders at any one time. It is awarded for outstanding service to the Crown and people of New Zealand.

Special period

Samoa's independence in 1962 also marked a special period in Samoa's history and the maturing of Samoa as a nation and as a people. We were proud to support its independence and since then we have worked closely together as colleagues, friends and aiga.

There are many examples of how we work together. For example, New Zealand has been quick to respond following natural disasters in Samoa, with $22 million in aid in response to the tsunami in 2009 and Cyclone Evan in 2012. New Zealand also worked in partnership with the Samoa National Disaster Management Office to strengthen its disaster preparedness measures.

In 2012 New Zealand and Samoa celebrated 50 years of the Friendship Treaty. Prime Minister John Key led a strong delegation of members of Parliament to highlight this special anniversary of friendship. I was a part of this delegation--it was indeed a special time for both of our peoples.

Last year, our government also initiated the first Pacific Parliamentary and Political Leaders Forum in our New Zealand Parliament Buildings. Samoans were among more than 70 Pacific parliamentarians and political leaders who gathered for this event--the first of its kind. A core objective of the gathering was to promote stronger co-operation, collaboration and political cohesion amongst new and emerging political leaders from the South Pacific and to strengthen their relations with New Zealand parliamentarians.

Key part

The New Zealand aid programme in Samoa is a key part of our bilateral relationship. It includes a diverse portfolio of activities in the priority sectors of: sustainable economic development; human development; scholarships and training; and New Zealand partnerships. The aid programme focuses on long-term sustainable development in Samoa. However, recent investments in renewable energy and tourism have been made in consultation with the government of Samoa to achieve short-term outcomes that will assist the Cyclone Evan recovery programme and to support the hosting of the SIDS conference.

Finally, may I recognise and acknowledge the presence of representatives of many of the descendants of the German/ Samoan families that were in Samoa at the time of the New Zealand occupation. In addition, may I also acknowledge the descendants of the New Zealand soldiers that went to Samoa on behalf of the New Zealand government. It is a special privilege to see representatives of all those families that witnessed and participated in this event so many years ago.

Our government looks forward to continuing to embrace and deepen our already strong relationship with Samoa for the benefit of our people, families and communities. Today we celebrate our rich past and tomorrow we look forward to another hundred years of close relationship in our beautiful corner of the South Pacific.

Hon Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga is minister of Pacific Island affairs. This is the edited text of the speech he made at a ceremony at the cenotaph in Auckland Domain on 29 August 2014.
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Author:Lotu-Iiga, Peseta Sam
Publication:New Zealand International Review
Geographic Code:8NEWZ
Date:Nov 1, 2014
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