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New Zealand High Commissioner To Sāmoa Makes History Twice

New Zealand’s incoming High Commissioner to Sāmoa, Si’alei Van Toor, will make history as the first person of Sāmoan heritage appointed to the role and being accredited as New Zealand’s Consul-General to neighbouring American Sāmoa.

Born and raised in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, High Commissioner Van Toor’s maternal grandparents arrived separately in New Zealand during the 1940s, where they would eventually meet and marry. Philip Dunn from the village of Matautu (Falealili) and Florence Coffin from Saoluafata.

This will be the third ‘Head of Mission’ posting for the mother of two, having been New Zealand’s representative to Taiwan and ambassador to Russia prior. Si’alei has also spent over a decade of her career working in diplomatic assignments in Beijing, China. The diplomat starts her posting next month and says Sāmoa will provide many opportunities, including exploring her cultural heritage.

“I’m really looking forward to working in this role. New Zealand and Sāmoa share a deep and multifaceted relationship based on extensive people-to-people, sports, business and cultural links, and close historical ties. The framework for the relationship is strong based on the Treaty of Friendship of 1962 and the 2019 Statement of Partnership. I look forward to leading the New Zealand High Commission to maintain and develop the relationship further still.

On a more personal note, being able to live and learn more and discover my culture and have that time to really delve into it and understand it with some depth… it's an incredible opportunity.”

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She describes her time living at the National University of Sāmoa while undertaking her master’s research in Development Studies through Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland as one of the best years of her life.

“I lived in Samoa in 1999 as a master’s student for around six months, and it gave me a taste, of what it was like to live there, and I just loved it.”

2024 is an important year for Sāmoa as it prepares to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in October later this year with King Charles in attendance as Head of the Commonwealth. It’s expected that more than 3,000 visitors including many world leaders will travel to Sāmoa.

Van Toor’s mother Lorraine Havill of Bethells Beach said watching daughter Si’alei achieve international success over the years has been exciting, adding her late husband Ken Havill (former Western Springs College principal) was immensely proud having a diplomat in the family.

“We are so proud of her! Mum and dad would be over the moon. Ken would be super proud,” said Lorraine Havill.

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