Significant step forward in fixing cruel and unjust past

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand

A significant milestone has been reached in the fight to strike an anti-Pasifika and unfair law from the country’s books after Teanau Tuiono’s members’ bill passed its first reading.

“Fairness is at the heart of this Bill. We had a group of New Zealand citizens who had their citizenship recognised and then had their citizenship removed by statute. That is unfair.” says Green Party spokesperson for Pacific Peoples Teanau Tuiono.

Teanau Tuiono’s Restoring Citizenship Removed By Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act 1982 Bill would restore the right to citizenship for people from Western Samoa who were born between 1924 and 1949, fixing a cruel and targeted law from the Muldoon era.

“In 1982, the Government rushed through the Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act to deny New Zealand citizenship to Western Samoans.

“Earlier that year, the Privy Council found that because those born in Western Samoa were treated by New Zealand law as “natural-born British subjects”, they were entitled to New Zealand citizenship when it was first created in 1948. But the Muldoon Government took that right away – choosing to scapegoat a community over the rule of law.

“In March 2003 during the Government, a petition with over 90,000 signatures calling for the law’s repeal was presented to Parliament – but nothing changed.

“There are people alive today who were New Zealand citizens and had this right arbitrarily and egregiously removed through a shameful act. It is well past time to remove this law and put things right, and I’m honoured to have taken a step towards that today.

“I want to acknowledge my brother Faʻanānā Efeso Collins. I wish he was standing in this house today, and his leadership will continue to guide my mahi on this important Bill. This first reading is for him.

“I thank other parties for their support so far and call for continued cooperation to ensure the safe passage of this Bill into law. Together we can reconcile our past and forward as peoples who call the Pacific home,” says Teanau Tuiono.

Additional information:

  • New Zealand citizenship wasn’t created until 1948. Before then, New Zealanders were British subjects
  • At the time citizenship was created, New Zealand was administering present day Samoa (known until 1997 as Western Samoa)
  • In 1982, Falema’i Lesa, a Samoan citizen living in New Zealand, was prosecuted for overstaying. She argued she wasn’t overstaying, as she said she was a New Zealand citizen
  • The Privy Council ruled that, because earlier NZ legislation had treated those born in Western Samoa after 13 May 1924 as “natural-born British subjects” for the purposes of NZ law, that cohort of people received NZ citizenship when NZ established its own citizenship in 1948
  • The Muldoon Government acted swiftly and in 1982 passed the Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act 1982
  • The 1982 Act removed NZ citizenship from those people who, under the earlier NZ legislation, had NZ citizenship because they were born in Western Samoa between 13 May 1924 and 1 January 1949, and those claiming citizenship through those people by descent or marriage
  • The Restoring Citizenship Removed By Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act 1982 would mean that a person whose NZ citizenship was removed by the 1982 Act will be eligible for citizenship as of right, instead of having to go through the standard residency and citizenship application processes.

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