Samoa celebrates half a century of independence this week, and the celebrations are felt deeply in this corner of Polynesia. In the long history of that country, the passing of 50 years is a blip. But the milestone is valued because it records freedom from a relatively short and unwelcome period of German and New Zealand colonialism.

Samoa is as close to New Zealand as it is possible to be. It was the first country that we colonised, sent by the empire to remove the Germans at the outset of World War I. In 1962, New Zealand withdrew and Samoa won its independence (again). Many thousands of Samoans came to this country in the decade before and in ensuing years in search of work, priming the New Zealand economy and changing the face of both nations forever.

There are more than 130,000 New Zealanders of Samoan descent, with 180,000 still living in Samoa. Samoans in this country make up half of all New Zealand's Pacific peoples. Undoubtedly, the 1962 Treaty of Friendship between the new nation and this country set in place lasting ties.

Samoa and its diaspora have much to celebrate. It is the envy of many of its neighbours, a robust democracy which for decades of its current nationhood has had two parties competing for political control under the oversight of a revered head of state, Malietoa Tanumafili II, until his death in 2007, and subsequently Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi. It has had stable government, a progressive economy, and a culture that has reached out and enriched our world. Happy 50th.