NZ High Commissioner to Sāmoa makes history
28 January 2024
Si’alei Van Toor is the first person of Sāmoan heritage to be appointed as High Commissioner and accredited as Consul-General to American Sāmoa.
The new High Commissioner and Consul-General to American Sāmoa, University of Auckland alumna Si'alei Van Toor, was born and raised in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland.
Her maternal grandparents arrived separately to New Zealand during the 1940s, where they would eventually meet and marry; they were Philip Dunn from the village of Matautu (Falealili) and Florence Coffin from Saoluafata.
This will be the third ‘Head of Mission’ posting for Van Toor, having been New Zealand’s representative to Taiwan and ambassador to Russia. She has also spent more than a decade of her career working in diplomatic assignments in Beijing, China.
She starts her posting in February and says Sāmoa will provide many opportunities, including a chance to explore 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."
Van Toor says the framework for the relationship is strongly 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.”
She describes her time living at the National University of Sāmoa while undertaking her masters research in Development Studies through the University of Auckland, as one of the best years of her life.
“I lived in Sāmoa in 1999 as a masters 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 will be an important year for Sāmoa as it prepares to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in October with King Charles in attendance as Head of the Commonwealth as well as many world leaders and more than 3,000 visitors.
Van Toor’s mother, Lorraine Havill, said watching her daughter achieve international success over the years has been exciting, and that her late husband Ken Havill (former Western Springs College principal) was immensely proud of having a diplomat in the family.
“Mum and dad would be over the moon and Ken would be super proud,” she says.
Kim Meredith | Pacific media adviser
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