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Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Pacific Island Affairs
Hon Luamanuvao Winnie Laban
Goff and Laban Express Condolences to Tonga and NZ's Tongan Community
Pacific Island Affairs Minister Phil Goff and Associate Minister Luamanuvao Winnie Laban today expressed their sympathy and condolences to the people of Tonga and New Zealand's Tongan community over the death of Tonga’s Head of State, His Majesty King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV.
“As Minister of Pacific Island Affairs, I extend to Queen Halaevalu Mata'aho Tuku’aho, the Tongan Royal Family and the people of Tonga our deepest condolences. New Zealand's 40,000 strong Tongan community shares the grief of Tongans everywhere at this sad time," Phil Goff said.
“King Taufa'ahau died yesterday aged 88 years after a long period of poor health.
"The King ascended to the throne in 1965 after the death of his Mother, Queen Salote Tupou III and was revered by his people, during his long reign of 41 years, for leading the transformation of Tonga from a largely subsistence economy into a modern state which enjoys membership of both the Commonwealth and the United Nations.
"King Taufa'hau was a close friend of the late Maori Queen, Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu, and enjoyed a strong connection with New Zealand, travelling here frequently and maintaining a residence in Auckland. The King had a strong interest in rowing, rugby and athletics which saw him visit New Zealand frequently to compete and to observe. The King's last official visit to Wellington was in 2000.
"The King's death marks the end of an era in Tonga.
"Toward the end of his reign, the King himself recognised pressures for change in the system by appointing a commoner, Feleti Seveli, as Prime Minister and appointing other elected members of parliament as Ministers.
"With the passing of the King and the ascension to the throne of a new monarch, further changes can be expected in Tonga's political system, Mr Goff and Luamanuvao Laban said.
Contact for Phil Goff: Jeremy Seed (press secretary) 04 471 9794 or 021 278 7233
Contact for Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: Catherine Field-Dodgson, Private Secretary (advisory and media), (04)470 6746, 021 227 6746,