• Samoan Prime Minister welcomed by Hawke's Bay community in inaugural visit

Samoan Prime Minister welcomed by Hawke's Bay community in inaugural visit

The warmth and endurance of Aotearoa New Zealand’s relationship with Samoa was acknowledged on Thursday this week, when the Right Honourable Fiamē Naomi Mata’afa, Prime Minister of Samoa was
hosted at Toitoi – Hawke’s Bay Arts and Events Centre, in Hastings. 

The trip to New Zealand, which began on Tuesday, marked 60 years of close diplomatic relations between New Zealand and Samoa, and the 60th anniversary of Samoa’s independence.

She was welcomed by, among others, Ngāti Kahungunu chair Bayden Barber, Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst, Hastings councillor Peleti Oli, and former Ngāti Kahungunu chair Ngahiwi Tomoana.

The occasion also included meeting with and acknowledging local Pasifika health leaders and workers in the region.

The powhiri on Thursday followed a meeting between Prime Minister Mata’afa and seasonal workers the evening before in Havelock North, which included a traditional ava ceremony to welcome the Prime

At the Thursday function, Hazlehurst said the Hastings community shared a strong bond with the large Samoan community living here, a bond built on respect for each other’s values and cultures.

“We are proud of our relationship with our Samoan community, both residents and seasonal workers. The contribution our Samoan family makes to Hastings is beloved and appreciated.  The warmth and kindness of our Pasifika people enriches our community.” 
She acknowledged the challenges faced by seasonal working teams over the past two years of the Covid-19 pandemic; some unable to go home between harvests, and others unable to enter New Zealand when they normally would.
“We are incredibly grateful to our Samoan RSE workers who leave their families for months at a time, and work tirelessly to help harvest our crops and support our horticulture industry.  They are vital to the
economic and social well-being of our region, and make an enormous contribution to support our region’s success.”

Barber said it was a privilege and an honour to support the visit of the first female Prime Minister in Samoas’s history.

"It was a great opportunity to host her and to mihimihi to her, to reconnect our kinship through whakapapa." 

Tomoana provided the history of the relationship, sharing his own whakapapa and their family migration to New Zealand from Samoa.

“The RSE scheme started long before it was formerly set up. Families have been coming here from Samoa to work for years." 

Johnny Appleseed general manager of horticulture To’osavili Len Thompson was one of several growers who attended a function with the Prime Minister on Thursday afternoon. He said seasonal workers were the foundation for supporting the growth of the industry, growth that enabled the creation of permanent positions that were filled by New Zealanders, the flow-on of which supported the economy.

“We deal with a perishable product and to retain Hawke’s Bay’s reputation as the premium apple growers of the world we need to get that fruit off the trees at the right time – the RSE workers are pivotal to that.

“At the same time, these hard workers get to send money back to the islands to support their immediate and extended whānau in their home villages.”
Prime Minister Mata’afa thanked the Hastings community for its support of the seasonal workers.
“The collaboration of local government and the indigenous authority is significant for our people as they come to work here . . . when I met them last night I felt they are happy and have been well looked after.”
She noted there had been concerns the new Samoan government would change the seasonal programme but said the importance of it was well understood and that the aim was to ensure the scheme was further improved and that it met the need of both countries.

A traditional woven fine mat and necklaces were presented to the Iwi from the Samoan delegation. The Prime Minister was also presented with a pounamu and gifts in honour of her visit.

During her time in New Zealand, she attended a number of other engagements in Wellington and Auckland, including a community gathering with Regional Season Employment workers and a lunch with the Pacific Parliamentary Caucus.