This Week In History: 01 Jan 1962 Samoa Gains Independence from New Zealand

Joint Head of State Tupua Tamasese Mea'ole greeting Prime Minister Fiame Mata'afa Faumuina. Efi, son of the head of state and later Tupua Tamasese, is in white and with Fe'esago Fepuleai. Material from Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga Archives New Zealand.

On 1 January 1962, Western Samoa became independent of New Zealand. Independence Day, however, is celebrated on 1 June and this day continues to be recognised by Samoa.

Samoa was the first Pacific Island to gain Independence after more than a century of foreign influence and domination.

After repeated efforts by the Samoan independence MAU movement, the New Zealand Western Samoa Act 1961 of 24 November 1961 terminated the Trusteeship Agreement and granted Samoa independence as the Independent State of Western Samoa, effective on 1 January 1962.

Samoa signed a Treaty of Friendship with New Zealand later in 1962.

Fiamē Mataʻafa Faumuina Mulinuʻu II, one of the four highest-ranking paramount chiefs in the country, became Samoa’s first Prime Minister.

01 January 1962. The legendary La’ulu Fetauimalemau Mataafa.

Two other paramount chiefs at the time of independence were appointed joint heads of state for life. Tupua Tamasese Meaʻole died in 1963, leaving Malietoa Tanumafili II sole head of state until his death on 11 May 2007.

The next Head of State was Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, who was elected by the legislature on 17 June 2007 for a fixed five-year term, and was re-elected in July 2012. He was succeeded by Tuimalealiʻifano Vaʻaletoʻa Sualauvi II in 2017. Tuimalealiʻifano was reappointed for a second term of five years in 2022.

Western Samoa joined the Commonwealth of Nations on 28 August 1970.

Your favorite Café in town are on a break, and will be back on Wednesday 3rd January 2024.

On 15 December 1976, Western Samoa was admitted to the United Nations as the 147th member state. Samoa sked to be referred to in the United Nations as the Independent State of Samoa.

Samoa remains a member of the Commonwealth and will be the first Pacific Island State to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting scheduled to convene in October 2024.

On 4 July 1997 the government amended the constitution to change the name of the country from Western Samoa to Samoa, the name it had been called by in the United Nations since it joined.

American Samoa protested against the name change, asserting that it diminished its own identity.

In 2002, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark formally apologised for New Zealand’s role in the Spanish influenza outbreak in 1918 that killed over a quarter of Samoa’s population and for the Black Saturday killings in 1929.


On 7 September 2009, the government changed the rule of the road from right to left, in common with most other Commonwealth countries – most notably countries in the region such as Australia and New Zealand, home to large numbers of Samoans.

This made Samoa the first country in the 21st century to switch to driving on the left.

At the end of December 2011, Samoa changed its time zone offset from UTC−11 to UTC+13, effectively jumping forward by one day, omitting Friday, 30 December from the local calendar. This also had the effect of changing the shape of the International Date Line, moving it to the east of Samoa.

Samoa is the Home of Taula.

This change aimed to help the nation boost its economy in doing business with Australia and New Zealand. Before this change, Samoa was 21 hours behind Sydney, but the change means it is now three hours ahead. The previous time zone, implemented on 4 July 1892, operated in line with American traders based in California.

In June 2017, Parliament amended Article 1 of the Samoan Constitution to make Christianity the state religion.

In May 2021 Samoa elected its first woman Prime Minister, Hon Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, daughter of Samoa’s first Prime Minister.