Samoan New Zealanders

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Samoan New Zealanders
Total population
English, Samoan

Samoan New Zealanders are Samoan immigrants in New Zealand, their descendants, and New Zealanders of Samoan ethnic descent. They constitute one of New Zealand's most sizeable ethnic minorities. In the 2013 census, 144,138 New Zealanders identified themselves as being of Samoan ethnicity with 50,658 stating that they were born in Samoa, and 636 stating that they were born in American Samoa.[1]



The country of Samoa (distinct from American Samoa) has a unique historical relationship with New Zealand, having been administered by New Zealand from 1914 to 1962.

Notable levels of Samoan migration to New Zealand began in the 1950s. In the 1970s, Samoan illegal immigrants were the targets of notorious "dawn raids" by the police, which led to accusations of ethnic bias in tackling illicit immigration. That same decade, some Samoan New Zealanders joined the newborn Polynesian Panthers, an organisation dedicated to supporting Pacific Islander New Zealanders, for example by providing information on their legal rights.[2] The number of Samoan-born residents in New Zealand doubled to over 24,000 during the 1970s.[2]

In 1982, a number of Samoan-born residents were granted citizenship with the Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act. Samoan immigration in New Zealand has subsequently been regulated by quotas. Since 2002, 1,100 Samoans are granted entry each year.[2]


The 1874 census recorded 6 Samoans in New Zealand. Numbers have increased steadily ever since, to 279 in 1936, 1,336 in 1951, 19,711 in 1976, 24,141 in 1981, and 47,118 in 2001.[1]

A majority of New Zealanders of Samoan ethnicity today are New Zealand-born.[2] Almost all Samoan New Zealanders live in urban areas, and two out of three live in the Auckland region.[3]


In 2001, 64% of ethnic Samoan New Zealanders were able to speak the Samoan language.[3] Samoan is the third most-spoken language in New Zealand, behind English and Maori.[4]

Samoan cultural values, the "Samoan way of life" (fa‘asamoa), are reportedly retained particularly by elderly members of the community, and include respect and mutual help within the extended family (‘aiga), as well as fa‘alavelave (ceremonial and family obligations), and attendance at a Christian church.[3]

Traditional tattooing (tatau) is embraced by some Samoan New Zealanders, both men and women, as an expression of cultural identity.[5]

Samoans have contributed significantly to New Zealand culture in the fields of art, music, literature and sport.[6]

Growing Tensions[edit]

With so many ethnicities in one place, tensions, and disagreements are inevitable, considering the fact that each group has their own opinion about their identity and culture. According to the article "Ambivalent Kinships? Pacific People in New Zealand", written by authors Teresia Teaiwa and Sean Mallon, they talked about how some tensions arose when the Tangata Whenua in New Zealand opposed the growing amount of Pakeha immigrating to New Zealand, fearing that New Zealand would lose its European culture and identity and become just another "Pacific Island" economically and socially. Because the Samoan migrants continued to grow rapidly in New Zealand, the Tangata Whenua continued to have tensions amongst each other. They feared that in the increase in population would make their scarce resources much more scarce.

Despite the growing tensions that the Tangata Whenua had amongst the Samoans, who were considered half the population of outsiders in New Zealand, all islanders used sports, mainly rugby and football, television shows, and theatre plays. "it is in rugby, theatre, and television that there are overt engagements and debates around notions of national identity." (Teaiwa & Mallon, pg 208) [7] Samoans were exceptional in the sport of Rugby, with the world-renowned All-Black Rugby team making headline news around the world. Because of this sport, "All Blacks represented as the coming together of people" (Teaiwa & Mallon, pg 212) It viewed as a multicultural image of New Zealand where both Maori and Samoan would compete against the world’s best.

Television shows were also used to establish the identity of the Samoans and share the important stories of their identity. An example of a television show is "Bro Town", a show that stars 3 different Samoan teenagers and how they use their identity and culture to fit in their daily lives. This show also portrays the type of issues and tensions that has happened within the community and transforms them into a humorous and comedic way for viewers to enjoy. (Teaiwa & Mallon, pg 221) Oscar Kightley, a Samoan born, yet who lived most of his life in New Zealand voiced one of the boys in "Bro Town". His resume also included being a sports commentator, author of Niu Sila, and also member of the Naked Samoans.

Lastly, theatre plays were used to further show their identity. Some notable plays are "Unlikely Places" by Gordon Dryland, a play that focused on the cultural friction and tension between the New Zealander and the Samoans. "Niu Sila"[8] is a story about a friendship spanning over thirty years, two cultures and one multicultural neighbourhood. "In 1970s New Zealand, six-year-old Ioane Tafioka, a fresh off the boat from the island of Samoa, moves in next door to six-year-old Niuen kid Peter Burton."[9] They begin an unlikely friendship that will change their lives. These plays helped distinguish the growing tensions the Samoans had between the New Zealanders. At the same time, it helped bring a sense of unity between all islanders.

Notable Samoan New Zealanders[edit]



All Blacks (past & present)[edit]



See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Samoans: Facts and Figures". Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand. 25 March 2015. Retrieved 27 December 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Samoans: History and migration". Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand. 
  3. ^ a b c "Samoans: Life in New Zealand". Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand. 
  4. ^ "French: People and culture". Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand. 
  5. ^ Susana Talagi (8 April 2008). "Sacred marks identify Samoans". Fairfax New Zealand. Archived from the original on 28 April 2008. 
  6. ^ "Samoans: Contributions to New Zealand". Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand. 
  7. ^ Teresia Teaiwa & Sean Mallon, Ambivalent Kinships Pacific People In New Zealand (Wellington, New Zealand: Victoria University Press, 2005), 207-225.
  8. ^ Caroline Armstrong (2004). "'Niu Sila' looks at Pacific migration". Archived from the original on 19 April 2014. Retrieved 21 April 2013. 
  9. ^ "Niu Sila". 2011. Retrieved 27 December 2015. 
  10. ^ Knight, Lindsay. "Richard Turner". New Zealand Rugby Museum. Retrieved 28 November 2013.