The Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae made an action-packed visit to Samoa to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Samoa’s independence and the signing of the Treaty of Friendship between Samoa and New Zealand.
The visit began on Wednesday 30 May with a reception at the New Zealand High Commissioner’s residence attended by a host of Samoan leaders including the Head of State, Prime Minister and Chief Justice. Thursday 31 May began with a morning call on the Head of State, HH Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, quickly followed by a helicopter flight to Satitoa Primary School, on the south coast of the main island of Upolu, which suffered devastation from the 2009 tsunami. Since then, the school has been rebuilt with assistance from New Zealand Aid, along with other agencies.
Sir Jerry received a warm welcome from the throngs of school children, who were thrilled by the sight of two helicopters landing on their playing field.
An ‘ava ceremony at nearby Saleaaumua Village was followed by a lunch of traditional Samoan food to the accompaniment of traditional dancing, before a short tour of tsunami-affected areas. Sir Jerry then returned by helicopter to Apia to attend a 50th Anniversary Church Service and Welcome ‘Ava Ceremony in Parliament Grounds.
Friday 1 June – the official Independence Day – was celebrated by large crowds in festive mood at Parliament Grounds with speeches, a flag raising ceremony and a march past, including the New Zealand Police, the Navy Band and staff of the New Zealand High Commission. Cultural performances in the afternoon included a dramatic mock battle between hordes of villagers, followed by a state dinner in the evening.
The next day was less formal. It began with a boat trip around Apia harbour – on a traditional long-boat – fautasi – rowed by students of Don Bosco technical College and skippered by Vaimasenu’u Zita Martel, Samoa’s only woman captain (and race-winning champion),. Sir Jerry later handed over the keys of an ambulance donated by Counties Manukau District Health Board to the Ministry of Health and in the afternoon opened an arts exhibition Tuto’otasi 50 (Independence 50) featuring the work of artists from New Zealand, Samoa and the Pacific. The evening concluded with a ball.
The Governor-General left Apia on Sunday 3 June for Tokelau on board the HMNZS Otago.