News 21 Jun 2018
As New Zealand High Commissioner to Samoa since January 2017, David Nicholson (above right) fully understands the unique relationship between the two nations.
“Samoa is the only nation with which New Zealand enjoys a Treaty of Friendship,” he says, referring to the Treaty which was signed on 1 August 1962, seven months after Samoa gained full independence.
It contains seven articles that emphasise the closeness of the relationship and recognises “friendship, confidence, and a mutual endeavour to obtain for their peoples fuller opportunities for social progress”.
“That closeness is reflected in the fact the Samoan population in New Zealand is approximately 150,000, which isn’t far off Samoa’s total population (195,000),” adds David, who joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 2012. He was first appointed as Director of the Pacific Development Division and then as Divisional Manager for Melanesia and Micronesia.
Prior to that, David was a senior public service manager in New Zealand’s health, social services and education sectors. He holds a Master of Arts (Hons) from the University of Canterbury and a Master of Public Administration from Victoria University.
He is married to Dr Suitafa Debbie Ryan, who received the NZ Order of Merit for her services to the Health and the Pacific community in 2017.
David says the quality of life in Samoa is constantly improving, making it more popular than ever for Samoans returning from New Zealand, attracting skilled migrants among them. He says much of it is due to Samoa’s social and political stability.
Samoa’s Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Dr Sailele Malielegaoi has been the Prime Minister for the past two decades, having led the Human Rights Protection Party since 1998.
“He is widely regarded as a respected regional and international statesman, which benefits Samoa,” says David. The Samoan economy continues to grow thanks to tourism, remittances (including NZ’s RSE scheme), developmental aid and offshore private investments. Increased connectivity through new Tui-Samoa submarine cable connect at the start of 2018 presents a great opportunity for further economic growth.
And while Samoa prides itself on its independence, David says it hasn’t diminished the importance of its unique relationship with New Zealand.
“We saw that during the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Pacific Mission in March and the launch of the Pacific Reset,” he says.
“The Samoan MPs in the New Zealand Government cabinet, namely Aupito William Sio and Carmel Sepuloni, had huge profiles locally during the visit. There was a sense of pride and family connection.”
Remittances from New Zealand still play a significant part in Samoa’s economy, and with the Fa’a Samoa culture (the Samoan way) still as prevalent as it was thousands of years ago, the island nation’s political and economic stability and growth is set to continue.