Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

PM returns to Samoan village which made him a chief

Photo / Claire Trevett
Photo / Claire Trevett

Prime Minister John Key has returned to the Samoan village of Poutasi five years after it made him an ali'i [high chief] and was welcomed with an 'ava ceremony.

He said he was pleased to see Poutasi was in good health.

"It is obviously challenging when you have not only a tsunami but a cyclone, but you can see the rebuilding work is being undertaken with stronger structures. The people of Poutasi are a great people who I think still have a very traditional sense of Samoa."

Village elder Joe Annandale said it was important for Poutasi to host the Prime Minister.

"We wanted to thank him for all the help we've had from the people of New Zealand who have been so generous, giving kindness as well as time to us."

Mr Key first visited Poutasi in July 2009 - a few months before the tsunami that wrecked the village.

He was made a chief when he returned days after that tsunami.

On his visit, Mr Key and the delegates with him took part in an 'ava ceremony, before inspecting the police station and its new tsunami warning system as well as a new market garden established with help from the Tindall Foundation.

Mr Key said the changes in Poutasi reflected progress in wider Samoa, which was also developing its tourism industry. He said China was currently in talks with Samoa about funding a port in Apia which would increase the number of cruise ships that could visit. "It's potentially a $200 million investment, so it is not insignificant. That's a matter for the Samoan Government and the Chinese."

He said Samoa offered a more traditional tourism experience than countries such as Fiji, where tourists tended to concentrate in resorts. 'It's been a less authentic experience for a lot of people. Clearly not everyone, but for a lot of people. Samoa has taken a more authentic view of things."

Mr Key also visited other tourist developments along Samoa's southern coastline, including Aunty Mago Masoe's rebuilt fale accommodation at Tafatafa and the To Sua Ocean Trench - a tidal fed swimming hole that is a major attraction in Samoa.

- NZ Herald

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