Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys, talofa lava, warm greetings to you all. I specifically acknowledge: Lina Fatuono, the Principal of Satitoa Primary School.
It is a joy to visit Satitoa primary school, and the wider Aleipata area, to see what is happening here and to witness first-hand the great progress that has been made since the 2009 Pacific Tsunami. What makes this visit quite special is the presence of the young children. I understand that it is school holidays so I am especially pleased that you gave up your school-free time to be here today.
I last visited this area in the immediate aftermath of the Tsunami. I was shocked by the scale of the damage, and yet delighted by the steadfast commitment of ordinary Samoans to rebuild their lives.
Communities and villages came together to support the relief effort and one another. The strength of the people of Samoa after the tsunami should be a source of pride for you all.
This school is an example of that commitment. It is easy to understand why you moved it inland, but clearing and levelling this land on which we stand, which was covered in trees and undergrowth, must have been formidable. You have built a better and safer school for your children. Today, Satitoa primary serves as an example of what can be achieved when we work together.
In this case we had two governments, a New Zealand based NGO, churches, New Zealand school children and your local community all working together to deliver something important and tangible for the children of Satitoa. The school is a true community project, built on the labours of local people, with support from New Zealand volunteers. BANZAID, the New Zealand based Baptist Aid agency deserves special mention. Its work behind the scenes in designing a new school to Samoan standards and its teams of volunteers that played a part in the rebuilding were crucial in getting the project completed.
The re-building of Satitoa Primary is also symbolic of the “Treaty of Friendship” that exists between Samoa and New Zealand and the strong people to people links we share. Later this year we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Friendship. The relationship between Samoa and New Zealand has evolved since then, and the strength and quality of our links remain as strong as ever.
I like to think this was demonstrated by the response of the New Zealand Government and people to the tsunami. New Zealanders, many of them with a Samoan heritage, opened their hearts to your plight.
As Satitoa primary school shows, the physical recovery from the Tsunami is now in its final stages. At the same time, we cannot forget those who died in the tragedy, and for their loved ones the wounds may never heal. As we move forward we will always remember those that cannot be with us.
It has been my pleasure to visit your school and community. I understand that the New Zealand High Commissioner has agreed to fund some additional shelving for the school library. I have brought a few New Zealand books with me that I hope can be added to your collection, and enjoyed by the children of Satitoa for many years to come. They are your investment in the future and I am pleased to be able to help in this way. Soifua.