Polynesian Leaders Group

The Polynesian Leaders Group (PLG) is an international governmental cooperation group bringing together eight independent or self-governing countries or territories in Polynesia.

Polynesian Leaders Group
Seatby rotation
Afega Gaulofa

The idea of a Polynesian regional grouping had been discussed for several years, notably in response to the Melanesian Spearhead Group, a regional grouping for countries in Melanesia. In September 2011, Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi initiated a meeting with the leaders of Tonga, Tuvalu, the Cook Islands and Niue on the margins of the Pacific Islands Forum summit in Auckland. These initial talks led to a second meeting in Apia which, on 17 November, led to a memorandum of understanding formally establishing the Polynesian Leaders Group (PLG).[1][2]

The Group does not have a fixed Secretariat at present, despite initial suggestions that one would be established in Apia.[1][2][3] The Group held its first formal meeting in Rarotonga in the Cook Islands in August 2012.[4]


The idea of a 'Polynesian Alliance' in order to address social and economic issues within the Pacific has been discussed since the between the 1870s and 1890s when King Kamehameha V of Hawaii, King Pomare V of Tahiti, King Malietoa Laupepa of Samoa and King George Tupou II of Tonga agreed to establish a confederation of Polynesian states, of which did not eventuate.[5]

The idea once again arose in the 1970s with the Kingitanga of New Zealand, an its leader Te Atairangikaahu, reviving the idea of an alliance similar to, but separate from, the Pacific Islands Forum. Fiji and Samoa were also parties to these discussions.[5]


Memorandum of Understanding
Announcing the launch, Prime Minister Tuilaepa said the member countries would work together "through this group to seek a future for our Polynesian people and countries where cultures, traditions and values are honored and protected. Where sustainable economic prosperity is achieved, where democratic values are observed, human rights promoted and protected as well as upholding the rule of law." It was also announced that the countries would cooperate in the fields of "education, culture and language, transport, environmental conservation and climate change mitigation and adaptation, health, agriculture and fisheries, tourism, trade and investment".[3]

The fourth section of the Memorandum of Understanding read; The meeting decided that through the PLG, members will work together in the spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation to: Encourage sharing knowledge and experiences in awareness and education to promote and protect cultures, traditions and languages; Encourage mutual support of development efforts in areas including but not limited to: transport, energy, environmental conservation, climate change, education, health, agriculture and fisheries, tourism, trade and investment; Encourage respect for the quality of governance, observance of democratic values and human rights rule of law and right to self-determination; Encourage the strengthening of connections with institutions of regional and international cooperation.[6]

Overseas workers
In 2013, the PLG ended their annual meeting with an announcement pushing New Zealand and Australia to increase its seasonal workers quotas in order for more Pacific peoples to gain seasonal work in these countries.[7]


There are eight founding members: three sovereign states (Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu), two self-governing states in free association with New Zealand (the Cook Islands and Niue), an unincorporated territory of the United States (American Samoa), an overseas country of France (French Polynesia), and a nation that is also a dependency of New Zealand (Tokelau).[8]


In June 2018, the Group voted to add three members: the sovereign state of New Zealand, the U.S. state of Hawaii, and the Chilean territory of Easter Island (Rapa Nui).[9][10] As far back as September 2011, Niuean Premier Toke Talagi had noted that "we consider New Zealand and Hawaii, for example, as being part of the Polynesian Triangle so they could very well be part of the members of this Polynesian Group". Tuilaeapa, while also acknowledging that New Zealand was geographically part of Polynesia, said there might be "complications" to inviting New Zealand into the Group.[1][2][3]

When the new members were formally announced, the Group's then-chairman, Enele Sopoaga, prime minister of Tuvalu, said, "we welcome other Polynesian communities in other places and locations to join the PLG as brothers," and emphasized the need for Polynesian communities to come together to address common problems.[10] Commentators also noted that the addition of New Zealand and Hawaii could bring additional resources to the Group and increase the potential for strategic cooperation with the United States.[9] Further, the addition of Easter Island raised questions about the relationship between the Group's interest in decolonization and Easter Island's political status within Chile.[9]

Potential membership for Fiji

In November 2011, Tuilaeapa stated it had been "decided that a state, territory or an indigenous Polynesian population can be invited to become a member or as an observer by a consensus decision of the founding members".[1][2][3] A few days later, discussing the founding of the Group with Radio Australia, Tuilaeapa said that Fiji could be welcomed as a member in future. Despite Fiji being usually considered a Melanesian country just outside the Polynesian Triangle, albeit with a culture and political traditions influenced by Polynesia, Tuilaepa argued that "Fiji is within this triangle and its founding leaders considered themselves as Polynesians. Obviously, the current leadership is leaning towards our Melanesian brothers."[11]

Founding Leaders

Country Head of Government Status governing
 American SamoaGovernor Togiola Tulafonoobserver member
 Cook IslandsPrime Minister Henry Punaself-governing
 French PolynesiaPresident Oscar Temaruobserver member
 NiuePremier Toke Talagiself-governing
 SamoaPrime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoisovereign state
 TokelauUlu Foua Toloa[12]observer member
 TongaPrime Minister Lord Tuʻivakanosovereign state
 TuvaluPrime Minister Willy Telavisovereign state


PLG Annual Meetings
NoDateLocationHostHost leaderNotes
1st17 November 2011Apia SamoaTuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi[13]
2ndAugust 2012Rarotonga Cook IslandsHenry Puna
3rd30 August 2013Auckland French PolynesiaGaston Flosse[8]
4th26 July 2014Auckland NiueToke Talagi[14]
5th5 September 2015Auckland TokelauAliki Faipule Siopili Perez[15]
6th29 June 2016Papeete French PolynesiaÉdouard Fritch[16]
7th4 September 2017Apia SamoaTuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi[17]
8th28 June 2018Tuvalu TuvaluEnele Sosene Sopoaga[18]
9thAugust 2019Tuvalu Tuvalu50th Pacific Islands Forum & Related Meetings
10th29 January 2021Virtual meeting American SamoaLemanu Peleti Mauga"Building Resilience in Times of Uncertainty"[19][20][21]



#NameCountry/StateTerm OfficeNotes
1Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi Samoa2011-2012
2Henry Puna Cook Islands2012-2013[8]
3Gaston Flosse French Polynesia2013-2014[8]
4Toke Talagi Niue2014-2015
6Aliki Faipule Afega Gaualofa Tokelau2015–present[22]

See also


  1. Andrews, John (19 September 2011). "NZ may be invited to join proposed 'Polynesian Triangle' ginger group". Scoop News. Pacific Scoop News. Retrieved 20 November 2011.
  2. "New Polynesian Leaders Group formed in Samoa". Radio New Zealand. 19 November 2011. Retrieved 20 November 2011.
  3. "American Samoa joins Polynesian Leaders Group, MOU signed". Samoa News. Savalii. 20 November 2011. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  4. "Polynesian Leaders Group meet in Rarotonga ahead of the Pacific Leaders Forum", Islands Business, 27 August 2012
  5. Iati, Iati (22 March 2017). "Pacific Regionalism and the Polynesian Leaders Group". The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs. 106 (2): 175–185. doi:10.1080/00358533.2017.1296706. S2CID 157681036.
  6. Ilialo, Marieta Heidi (21 November 2011). "POLYNESIAN LEADERS GROUP FORMED IN SAMOA". Pacific Island Report. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  7. "Polynesian leaders want to push for higher seasonal worker quotas". Radio New Zealand. 2 September 2013. Retrieved 28 August 2017.
  8. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 May 2016. Retrieved 22 April 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. Wyeth, Grant. "Polynesian Triangulation: Polynesian Leaders' Group Expands". thediplomat.com. Retrieved 3 July 2020.
  10. "NZ, Hawaii and Rapa Nui admitted to Polynesian Leaders Group". www.samoanews.com. 30 June 2018. Retrieved 3 July 2020.
  11. "Fiji welcome in Polynesian bloc: Samoa", Radio Australia, 22 November 2011
  12. "Polynesian Union finally realized 35 years after". Talamua. 18 November 2011. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
  13. "POLYNESIAN LEADERS GROUP FORMED IN SAMOA - November 21, 2011". Pacific Islands Report. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  14. Administrator. "Prime Minister of Tonga attends 4th Meeting of the Polynesian Leaders Group". www.mic.gov.to. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  15. "Smallest Pacific territory, Tokelau elected to lead 'Polynesian Leaders Group'". Pacific Guardian. 9 July 2015. Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  16. "Polynesian leaders group gathers in Tahiti for climate change update". Asia Pacific Report. 29 June 2016. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  17. "Governor to attend Polynesian Leaders Group". Talanei News. 21 August 2017. Retrieved 28 August 2017.
  18. "NZ, Hawaii and Rapa Nui admitted to Polynesian Leaders Group". Radio NZ. 29 June 2018. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  19. "Polynesian Leaders Group in virtual meet". Samoa Observer. 27 January 2021. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  20. "American Samoa completes the first virtual Polynesian Leaders Group meeting". Samoa news. 6 February 2021. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  21. "PM to assume Polynesian Leaders Group chair role". Cook Islands NEWS. 1 February 2021. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  22. "Tokelau elected to lead Polynesia Leaders Group". www.tokelau.org.nz. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
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