05.09.2016 - UNESCO Office in Apia

Safeguarding the Old Courthouse within the Framework of the Apia Waterfront Plan


Apia, 3 September 2016: The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) and Samoa Tourism Authority (STA) released the first draft Apia Waterfront Plan. The Apia Waterfront Project is a joint initiative by MNRE and STA with the vision to make the Apia Waterfront as an attractive destination connecting people to unique places and Samoan experiences. The draft Waterfront Plan foresee the refurbishment of the Old Courthouse in Apia, historic building of important historical and cultural significance, as an arts and culture ‘hub’.

The Old Courthouse in Apia, capital of Samoa, is one of the few remaining timber structures of German colonial design that exist anywhere in the world.  Designed by Albert Schaafhausen, the government architect, and built by Friedrich Stunzner, master building, the Old Courthouse in Apia opened in 1903 as a courthouse for the German colonial administration (1900 to 1914) in Samoa.  It was taken over by the NZ occupying forces in 1914 and used as their administration office

It became the Samoan government’s own courthouse and seat of the Prime Minister after the independence of Western Samoa in 1962.  A second courtroom was added on the ground floor to the rear.  Later, the Prime Minister’s office was located in the Courthouse, and Cabinet meetings were held in the first floor till 1993.  The Museum of Samoa occupied the upper floor of the western wing from May 1999 till July 2008 when it was relocated to the former Ifi-Ifi school building (now next to the building of the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture).  The Courthouse was emptied in 2010 after the inauguration of a new Ministry of Justice building in Mulin’u.

Today, the site and buildings are administered by the Ministry of Finance.  The Trust for the Old Courthouse in Apia was established in 2010.  With support from German and NZ governments and with technical assistance from UNITEC Institute of Technology in Auckland, a feasibility study for the preservation of the Old Courthouse was prepared and the result of the study was put on a display at the Exhibition “Living Heritage: A New Life for the Courthouse” (August 2012).

Prior to the 3rd International Conference on Small Island Developing States held in Samoa in September 2014, a special event on “Safeguarding Samoa’s Shared Heritage” was held at the Old Courthouse in Apia on 29 August 2014 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the withdrawal of the German colonial powers from Samoa. It was on that occasion that the Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi of Samoa provided his strong support to the Old Courthouse Trust to pursue its mission in order to safeguard the Old Courthouse in Apia as integral part of the Apia waterfront plan, expressing his determination to make the Apia waterfront “the most beautiful waterfront” in the Pacific.

These efforts resulted in the inscription of the Apia Courthouse on the 2016 World Monuments Watch List established by the World Monuments Fund.  Making this decision, the World Monuments Fund states “The Former Apia Courthouse is intimately tied to Samoa’s modern history and is one of the last colonial buildings in the South Pacific, but a new use must be found for this.”

On 3 September 2016, the draft Waterfront Plan was officially presented by the Honorable Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi during an official ceremony held at the Samoa Tourism fale which was well attended by members of the Cabinet, the Diplomatic Corps and representatives from several ministries.  The Waterfront Plan is a strategic document that will guide government planning and waterfront users on future development in the next 10 to 15 years.  It will be finalized toward the end of 2016 to be used by the Government of Samoa as a cohesive and strategic plan with clear economic and social benefits to leverage investments from potential investors and development partners. 

The Waterfront Plan presents the Vision: The Apia Waterfront is an attractive destination connecting people to unique places and Samoan experiences.  It has five Goals; Goal 1: Reflect a unique Samoan experience, Goal 2: Create an inclusive, safe and clean waterfront, Goal 3: Enhance public domain for community use, Goal 4: Support opportunity for local business initiatives, Goal 5: Connect people to the sea.  Among 10 Strategies is Strategy 2 “Preserve and highlight Samoan heritage/culture”.  The draft Waterfront Plan foresees that the Old Courthouse building will be developed as an arts and culture ‘hub’ for downtown Apia, supported by private studios and galleries, as well as a museum showcasing waterfront and harbor history.

Following the presentation of the draft version, there will be opportunity to meet the project team on 13 and 14 September 2016 and the deadline for submission is 30 September 2016.


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