Key pumps Samoan ties in tsunami village

Wrapping up a day of friendship celebrations in Samoa, Prime Minister John Key revisited the tsunami-ravaged village of Poutasi, where he was made a chief back in 2009.

Greeted with a traditional 'ava (kava) ceremony, Mr Key - joined by a delegation of New Zealand MPs - opened a new community hall in the village, which New Zealand helped to rebuild in the wake of the September 2009 disaster.

Wednesday marks 50 years to the day since New Zealand and Samoa signed a Treaty of Friendship, following 48 turbulent years of colonial administration of the Pacific nation.

Addressing a state luncheon at the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum, with an audience that included Samoan head of state, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi and MPs from both Samoa and New Zealand, Mr Key said he was honoured to stand in the place where the treaty - the only such treaty New Zealand has - was signed in 1962.

"That was a historic occasion reflecting the change from a colonial relationship to that of two governments of sovereign and equal states," Mr Key said.

He said the treaty was as relevant today as it was then.

"[We have] a relationship built open our shared Polynesian history, cultural and family ties, and numerous person-to-person links.

"Samoans make a rich and important contribution to the fabric of New Zealand society."

Mr Key says each country's response to the other's respective tragedies - the 2009 Samoan tsunami and the 2011 Canterbury earthquake - had drawn Samoa and New Zealand closer still.

Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Key announced a gift of $5 million to be spent on paying school fees for most of the 16,000 year 9-11 schoolchildren in Samoa.

Although education is compulsory, only about 70 per cent of children attend, with the annual cost of about $NZ200 a barrier to many families.

Labour leader David Shearer backed the gift, saying it is "an opportune thing to do".

"It's certainly going to help people in Samoa get that extra few years of education, it's going to make all the difference."

Mr Key also held bilateral talks with Prime Minister Tuilaepa, and discussed a potential extension to the Recognised Seasonal Employer Strategy to give Samoans access to trades work in Christchurch during its rebuild.

Mr Key flies back to New Zealand on Wednesday night.

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