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Samoan community in NZ concerned over land rights in Samoa

Samoa's Parliament  [Photo: RNZI / Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia]

Samoans in New Zealand's Auckland city met recently to discuss how land rights back in Samoa would affect families living abroad.

The Samoa Solidarity International group led the meeting to give clarity on the Lands Title Registration Act 2008 which some claim breaks communal land into individual titles, thus infringing on customary rights.

The same concerns were raised in Samoa on December 18 when over 200 people marched in the capital at Apia.

A committee member of the New Zealand group, Taloto Obed Unasa said the main concern for those at the Auckland meeting was the lack of understanding on the long term consequences for people's land under the current law.

Taloto said the registration act allows the government access to negotiate how the lands can be used, if families do not protect it accordingly.

"There was a deep concern with their own families in Samoa and the need for more dialogue, more conversation and more understanding around this particular issue because at the end of the day, it really affects every Samoan person, whether you live in Samoa or you're outside Samoa," he said.

"You are part of a village and you are part of that culture that your families will own land."

"Prior to the law of 2008, you didn't have that type of negotiation with the government because land in Samoa is traditionally owned by the people," he said.

"In the context of the village life, it's owned by the chiefs and their families. It's a collective ownership," Taloto said.

Samoa's Prime Minister has denied claims rights to customary lands have been violated by the Registration of Lands and Titles Act of 2008.

He said it is clear that under the [Samoa] constitution customary lands cannot be sold and would always remain the property of the heirs to the relevant matai title.