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New Zealand in Samoa

Page 8 – Towards independence

The Labour Party victory in New Zealand's 1935 general election broke the political stalemate in Samoa. A 'goodwill mission' to Apia in June 1936 recognised the Mau as a legitimate political organisation, the Samoan Offenders Ordinance was repealed, and Olaf Nelson's exile was revoked. The Mau held majorities in both a newly elected Fono of Faipule and the legislative assembly.

But dissatisfaction remained. Samoan self-government was slow to emerge, due in part to the Great Depression and the Second World War. A worldwide trend towards decolonisation after the Second World War and increased pressure from the newly formed United Nations led New Zealand to prepare for Samoan independence.

Western Samoa achieved independence on 1 January 1962. Tupua Tamasese Maeole, son of Tupua Tamasese Lealofi III, became joint head of state with Malietoa Tanumafili II, the son of New Zealand Administrator George Richardson's fatua (adviser), Malietoa Tanumafili I.

On 4 June 2002, nearly 90 years after New Zealand's Samoa Advance Party first stepped ashore at Apia, the New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, returned to Samoa. Speaking to delegates assembled to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Samoa's independence, she offered 'a formal apology' that brought some degree of closure to an uncomfortable chapter of New Zealand history:

On behalf of the New Zealand Government, I wish to offer today a formal apology to the people of Samoa for the injustices arising from New Zealand’s administration of Samoa in its earlier years, and to express sorrow and regret for those injustices.

Helen Clark, speech at State Luncheon, Apia, Samoa, 4 June 2002

How to cite this page

Towards independence, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated