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A long-time coming: Cross-party support to restore older Samoan’s New Zealand citizenship

19 April, 2024

Interview by Caeden Tipler, adapted by Vivek Panchal

Auckland University of Technology Criminology Lecturer, Laumua Tunufa’i, says there has been a lack of action from Labour and National to overturn a “racist law” passed by the then National government in 1982.

This month, Labour, ACT, and NZ First supported a bill introduced by Green MP Teanau Tuiono that would reinstate New Zealand citizenship to roughly 5000 older Samoans born between 1924 and 1948.

The Restoring Citizenship Removed by Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act 1982 Bill passed its first reading, 74 votes in favour and 49 against, with National being the only party to vote against it.

In 1982, the then National government passed a law, overriding a Privy Court decision that ruled those born in the previously New Zealand-occupied territory, formerly known as Western Samoa, were New Zealand citizens.

Auckland University of Technology Criminology Lecturer, Laumua Tunufa’i, told 95bFM's The Wire, that advocates including Tuiono have been campaigning for many years to repeal the “racist law”.

"Discussions have been going on for a very long time. It is good it has finally come to this stage. It is timely."

Tunufa’i calls cross-party support for the bill "surprising" given ACT and NZ First's stance on Pacific issues. 

“ACT has never been a party that supports Pacific ventures here in New Zealand. The New Zealand First leader [Winston Peters] is a Samoan chief, so there is some degree of leniency."

The ACT Party has stated it wants to abolish the Ministry for Pacific Peoples. During an interview with Newstalk ZB, ACT Leader David Seymour said "We'd send a guy called Guy Fawkes in there [the Ministry for Pacific Peoples] and it would be all over".

New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters recently compared common areas for Māori and Pasifika students on university campuses to the white supremacist hate group, the Ku Klux Klan, while the ACT Party described the spaces as segregation.

Tunufa’i believes political parties are “taking advantage” of Labour and National’s lack of action on this issue.

“ACT, in my view, has smartly entered into this space because it is a vacuum that has been left unopened, unanswered, and unoccupied by both Labour and National for a very long time.”

Tunufa’i says the previous Labour government missed an opportunity to repeal the law when apologising for the Dawn Raids of the 1970s.

“During that time, we, the Samoan and Pacific community, thought they were going to push this bill through. They did not.”

According to Tunufa’i, the passing of Tuiono’s bill would be a progressive step towards remedying Aotearoa's racist history. 

Listen to the full interview

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air