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Labour MP for Panmure-Ōtāhuhu Jenny Salesa.

Photo/ RNZ / John Gerritson


Salesa: Labour will back Green MP's upcoming citizenship bill

But will Teanau's bill get enough support to pass the first reading?

Khalia Strong
Khalia Strong
02 April 2024, 1:16pm
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The Labour Party has come out in support of a bill to restore citizenship to Samoans, but doubts remain if it will get enough support to go further.

“We're definitely supporting Teanau's bill to first reading," says Jenny Salesa, Labour MP for Panmure-Ōtāhuhu.

The Restoring Citizenship Removed by Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act 1982 is a member's bill submitted by Green MP Teanau Tuiono, and is due to have its first reading, where MPs will vote on whether it should progress to the next stage.

Salesa says Tuiono has support from the opposition parties, Labour, Greens and Te Pāti Māori, which make up a total of 54 seats, but that's not enough to get a majority.

“In order for this bill to go through to first reading, he needs at least one other party in government to support his bill. That’s either the ACT Party or New Zealand First, or ideally the National Party.”

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon says the National party won’t be supporting the bill, ignoring advice from their Pacific group of party supporters.


Watch Jenny Salesa's full interview below:

Pacific Blues chair Christian Malietoa-Brown says reinstating citizenship is an issue they’ve gone back and forth on.

“This is a very complicated issue because it also involves the Samoan government, so the bill as it stands right now is completely not workable for anybody because it's way too broad.

“When your children can claim citizenship, and their children can claim citizenship, that's mass migration, that'll empty Samoa.”

But Tuiono says this isn’t the case in this scenario, and has written to the Prime Minister to clarify this.

“You can get citizenship in three ways, birth, descent, or by grant, so this one sets up citizenship by grant … so it won't enable mass migration.”

Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board member Vi Hausia says this bill could have a real impact on the 3,000 people people who it could apply to.

“Some of these people who are affected by getting their citizenship revoked back in 1981 already live in New Zealand, and their kids and their kids are already in New Zealand and are already New Zealand citizens.

“This is just ensuring that they have access to the needs that they require here in New Zealand, like healthcare, training, superannuation, so this mass migration thing is a distraction, it's not true, and you can work things out.”

Hausia says getting it past the first hurdle will allow for more in-depth discussion.

“Just because you support it into the first reading doesn't necessarily mean that you fully agree with the bill. It just means that you believe that there's merit in furthering the conversation, allowing community to be able to provide feedback through select committee.

“No bill is perfect before first reading, that's the point of having second reading, then ultimately the third reading. But to shut down the conversation even before we have a conversation, in my view, would be a huge disservice to this bill that ultimately will affect thousands of New Zealand citizens who are Samoans who had their citizens revoked back in 1982.”

Could there be a different way of sorting this out?

Malietoa-Brown says it could come down to an international-relations issue, with finer details that need to be worked out between the two countries, but doubts it will get that far.

“I believe the conversation actually lies with the Samoan government on what the way forward should be. And if later on there's something that gets worked out, then they'll work it out from government to government … but at this point, I don't see it making it off the ground, that's just the reality of it.”

Watch the full discussion between Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board member Vi Hausia and Pacific Blues chair Christian Malietoa-Brown below: