The first visit by Bill English as New Zealand’s Prime Minister is something he and his family will remember for a long time.
When he boarded the Air New Zealand flight back yesterday afternoon, he took with him many wonderful memories of his whirlwind trip.
Friday was a big day.
First he was bestowed the Leulua’iali’iotumua title at Faleula. Then he visited some key projects where New Zealand has pledged assistance.
Later in the evening, a reception at Letava marked 55 years of the Treaty of Friendship between Samoa and New Zealand.
Leulua’iali’iotumua acknowledged the support of the government of Samoa as well as members of the Faleula community for the honor of conferring of the title Leulua’iali’iotumua.
“I have had such a fantastic time here in Samoa,” he said.
“I acknowledge the Government of Samoa, from the Ministers, Associate Ministers and Council of Deputies we appreciate deeply your hospitality, respect and commitment to a long and deep relationship with New Zealand.”
To better highlight the links that make Samoa and New Zealand so close, the Prime Minister told his story and how he came to be connected with Samoa.
“The first Samoan woman I met I married,” he said referring to Dr. Mary English. “I met her first as a 19-year-old at Otago University. I had been working on a farm on the south and you can tell I’m a farmer from the south just by watching my dancing."
“So I went to Otago University having worked on the farm for a year or two but basically the young woman that I went with to the ball got very drunk and had to go home. Someone who had taken Mary to the ball clearly got sick of her and so introduced her to me."
“That was the easy bit, the hard bit was meeting my Samoan father-in-law and just to make sure I was completely intimidated because I was a bit of a letdown."
“She was at a medical school and meant to come home with a prospective surgeon and she came home with a badly dressed, scruffy unemployed farm worker, even worse with an Arts Degree and so I wasn’t intimidated by the 13 children because I came from a family of 12 myself."
“But George Scanlan (father-in-law) arranged for me to come and meet him at his work place in Wellington where they service the city council buses."
“And I can still remember walking into his morning tea room full of Samoans speaking Samoan and I knew then that it was going to take a long time to gain respect."
“And I checked it out with George when I was sworn in as Prime Minister 35 years later just 6 months ago and on the day he conceded that yes I had done okay. I also found out that when you become famous lots of Samoans are related to you."
“So I was walking down the streets of Auckland the other day and these two very handsome 19 year old boys came up to me and said “Oh Sir you’re my uncle.”
“I have to say I couldn’t quite remember their names and I hadn’t really seen them before but I’m happy if they are old enough to vote.”
But these are all just part of the growing richness and cultural of New Zealand Leula’iali’i reiterated.
“When we come here much of what we see is a discussion about the excellent work we’ve seen in the development of Samoa and of course reference for New Zealand support for that which we are happy to support generously and warmly if we can,” he said.
“Of course what isn’t discussed so much is the contribution of Samoa to New Zealand and there’s of life here that is becoming more prominent in New Zealand and I think it’s a great thing."
“So the 130,000 Samoans in New Zealand along with the rest of Pacific community are changing our country and it is a real pleasure that I can say as Prime Minister that my family is part of that.”