Welcome to Samoa, Prime Minister Ardern!

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu ,

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New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, at Faleolo International Airport.

New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, at Faleolo International Airport. (Photo: Misiona Simo)

New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, touched down in Samoa last night, marking a historical first visit for the Labour Party leader.

The youngest woman to have held the Prime Ministership portfolio arrived on a Royal New Zealand Air Force Hercules with her partner, Clarke Gayford.

Ms. Ardern and her delegation including New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vaovasamanaia Winston Peters, were greeted on the tarmac at the Faleolo International Airport by Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa.

Fiame was accompanied by the Associate Minister of the Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Peseta Vaifou Tevaga and Miss Samoa, Papali’i Alexandra Iakopo.

Ms. Ardern could not be interviewed. 

But she took the time to acknowledge a small crowd that had gathered there and representatives of the local media before she was whisked away by her security officials. 

She spent last night at Taumeasina Island Resort.

Samoa is the first stop of Ms. Ardern’s Pacific tour, which also includes a visit to Tonga, Niue and the Cook Islands.

Among the New Zealand delegation are other Cabinet Ministers and Members of Parliament including Carmel Sepuloni, Aupito William Sio, Fletcher Tabuteau, and National MPs Gerry Brownlee and Alfred Ngaro. They are being followed by a huge media delegation from New Zealand.

The visit comes after Foreign Minister Vaovasa promised to boost aid and embark on a new strategy with New Zealand's Pacific neighbours.

During a speech to the Lowy Institute in Sydney last week, Vaovasa raised concerns about the Pacific "attracting an increasing number of external actors."

China is no doubt on the agenda.

THE DELEGATION: Carmel Sepuloni, Aupito Sua Sio and Vaovasamanaia Winston Peters are among the New Zealand delegation.
THE DELEGATION: Carmel Sepuloni, Aupito Sua Sio and Vaovasamanaia Winston Peters are among the New Zealand delegation.

But in terms of priorities, Ms. Ardern will be more concerned about climate change and the devastation caused by Cyclone Gita recently.

"Seeing the scale of the disruption to kids' education, I imagine that will probably really hit home to us when we see it," she is quoted as saying by Radio New Zealand.

"We'll be needing to make sure we carefully balance that though with also the kind of relationship we have, what business links we can build, [and] ways we can enhance economic development for the Pacific as well.”

New Zealand’s Climate Change Minister, James Shaw, is also on the trip. Ms. Ardern’s first official appearance today will be the inspection of the Guard of honour, kicking off a busy day (see schedule on left)

About Jacinda Ardern 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was born in the city of Hamilton, New Zealand, and grew up rurally. 

She attended high school before graduating from the University of Waikato with a Bachelor of Communication Studies in Politics and Public Relations.

Post-university, she worked as an advisor in the office of then-Prime Minister Helen Clark, in London for the Government Cabinet Office and as an Assistant Director in the Department for Business and Enterprise, and on a review of Policing in England and Wales.

The Prime Minister joined the New Zealand Labour Party at age 18 and entered New Zealand’s Parliament in 2008. 

Over her nine years as a representative she has been a strong advocate for children, women, and the right of every New Zealander to have meaningful work.

She became the MP for the Auckland electorate Mt Albert in early 2017, and the Leader of the Labour Party in August 2017. 

As well as Prime Minister, she holds the roles of Minister for National Security and Intelligence, Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, and Minister for Child Poverty Reduction, an issue particularly close to her heart.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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