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Madam Chair and Members of the Special Committee
The people of Tokelau send their well wishes to the Special Committee.
Tulou te lagi ma te Atua tafito
(Respect to the Heaven and the Almighty Creator)
Kae talia ko i Hifonakiga ki kai alagi
(We ask for your blessings to the many resources of the atmosphere)
Talia ko i Hifonakiga ki te kua vao, kelekele ma na lakau
(We ask for your blessings to the land, forest, trees and all our surroundings)
Talia ko i Hifonakiga ki te uluulu, namo ma te moana
(We ask for your blessings to the reefs, lagoons and oceans)
Ni Tai! Ni Tai! Ni Tai!
(May these blessings come abundantly!)
Tulou! Tulou! Tulou lava!
(My respect and greetings to all)
Warm Tokelau greetings to you all!
Firstly Madam Chair, let me take this opportunity as the Ulu o Tokelau and on behalf of the people of Tokelau to congratulate you on your appointment to the role of the Chair of this Special Committee. Tokelau wishes you well during your term as Chair of this important Committee.
It is a privilege for me to be present today and make a Statement on behalf of the people of Tokelau. I would like to acknowledge those that have made this trip a success for me and especially to the Government of New Zealand Permanent Mission to the UN for their support. The Office of the Administrator has been a source of support for the successful cooperation between the Government of New Zealand and the people of Tokelau. Therefore, I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the presence of the Administrator of Tokelau – Mr. David Payton and thank him for his work.
As you are aware Madam Chair, Tokelau had made a decision to have a Referendum in November this year. Tokelau’s Referendum Commission, which is a statutory body responsible for the conduct of the Referendum, met earlier this month and decided that the Referendum should be held in October. This change in date arose from the Commission’s concern about the risk of holding the Referendum during cyclone season. The Referendum dates are 20-24 October 2007.
The voting will close on 24 October in Atafu where the votes will be counted and the result will be declared within 24 hours.
The General Fono has decided that the question for the 2007 Referendum will be the same as that of the 2006 Referendum. The Referendum proposal is “That Tokelau become self-governing in free association with New Zealand on the basis of the Constitution and the Treaty”. The General Fono also decided that Tokelau will be declared to have self determined only if more than a 2/3 majority of the valid votes support the proposal.
The package that will be put to vote in October is the same as the package for the 2006 Referendum. It involves the draft Constitution of Tokelau as endorsed in principle by the General Fono in May 2005 and the Treaty of Free Association between New Zealand and Tokelau which was approved by the New Zealand’s Cabinet on 21 November 2005. The principles of the Draft Treaty were discussed and approved by the General Fono in 2005.
Madam Chair, I am able to convey through this statement the decision of the Referendum Commission to invite 2 representatives of this Committee to observe the October 2007 Referendum on Tokelau’s self determination. Tokelau looks forward to hosting the observers.
This year the Council of the Ongoing Government has consulted and informed widely about the Referendum. The Council is of the view that for the Referendum to be truly successful it was important to get the support and blessings of both the Tokelau communities in Tokelau and Tokelau communities abroad. In January, February and March of this year the Council consulted with the villages in Tokelau and Tokelau communities in Hawaii, American Samoa, Samoa, Australia and New Zealand.
In the villages of Tokelau, Referendum Committees have been established to provide a free flow of information to the people of Tokelau. These committees have been supported by a Consultation Team travelling to the villages and holding 2-3 weeks consultations in each village. It is planned for the Council to follow-up these visits with further consultation in the villages in September.
The continuing close cooperation between Tokelau and New Zealand is vital in our path towards decolonisation. This relationship of trust was not built overnight. It is a result of good faith and patience from earlier leaders of both countries to ensure the commitment to the development of Tokelau’s capacity for self-government through the strengthening of its economic, political and social wellbeing. In 2003 a Joint Statement of the Principles of Partnership between Tokelau and New Zealand was signed. The partnership agreement was visionary in its expectation to create a framework within which both parties maximise the benefits of the relationship. The partnership provides a firm foundation for ongoing and constructive dialogue between the partners.
Together with the Joint Statement the partners signed an Arrangement for Economic Support for 2004/05-2006/07. Currently Tokelau and New Zealand are working towards the finalisation of an economic package for 2007/08-2009/10.
The current year has seen the final resolution of an accumulated funds deficit that has adversely impacted on development initiatives over the last 3 years. Notwithstanding these drawbacks, it was Tokelau’s desire to address the problem in a fiscally prudent manner and show that responsible financial management was clearly one of Tokelau’s objectives. Indeed, we are sure that our prudent stance over the last 3 years has assisted in some small way toward the improved levels of assistance proposed by New Zealand within the next 3 year economic support arrangements.
Tokelau’s vision for the next 3 years is to progress developments in such a way that Tokelau is a place where we want to stay, live and a place that we are all proud of. To achieve this vision a number of key areas such as village development, health, education and transport have been identified as Government priorities.
In the past other leaders of Tokelau have spoken to this Committee about the essential nature of an effective shipping service for Tokelau. Shipping is the lifeline to our small atolls. I am pleased to say that the Governments of New Zealand and Tokelau are working together closely towards our having a new purpose built ship in the near future.
The last few months have seen the publication of the first report of the Tokelau International Trust Fund. The fund looks to our longer term future. It is looking to the intergenerational wellbeing of the citizens of Tokelau. Although small by international standards, the Fund now stands at some US$22million. This is thanks to the substantial ongoing support of New Zealand and other countries. In addition to the contributions of the Government of New Zealand, I warmly acknowledge the major contributions from Australia and the United Kingdom.
Madam Chair, I am sure there will be further opportunities for countries to contribute in the future.
Today much greater consideration is being given to Tokelau’s fragile environment. One of our long-term goals is the achievement of energy independence through the development of indigenous energy resources. The Government of Tokelau with the support of UNDP will assess whether the power system on each of the 3 atolls can be based on a solar and coconut oil hybrid.
In making reference to our fragile environment I would like to express Tokelau’s concern on the impacts of the rising sea level and global warming. These issues are practical considerations for our tiny and vulnerable atolls’ development strategy. Seawall projects feature visibly in our low lying villages.
Madam Chair, we are all responsible for the environment that we live in and Tokelau wishes to call upon the international community to take practical and immediate steps to reduce the impacts of the rising sea level and global warming.
Tokelau values its links to regional organisations and UN organisations in the Pacific. In November 2006 Tokelau hosted 10 regional and UN international organisations in Tokelau. All organisations are working together to develop a Joint Draft UN and CROP Agencies Strategy for Tokelau 2007-2010. This visionary initiative has been welcomed and appreciated by Tokelau.
Tokelau’s path towards self-determination continues to value the support and cooperation by the Government of New Zealand. As Tokelau continues with its nation building programme it is evident that there are key areas where Tokelau has limited resources and capacity to undertake all that is required. We are looking forward to New Zealand’s assistance in the near future to help settle our EEZ boundaries and formalise arrangements with the Government of Samoa. Samoa is our very important ‘elder brother’. It is our gateway to the world.
Madam Chair, it is with mixed feelings that I stand here today. By the end of this year the Committee will know the result of the Referendum on Tokelau’s self-determination. It has been a long road since 1976 when the first UN Mission visited Tokelau. Along this path most of our people and elders have left us. Yet their vision and footprints remain deep and true in our hearts. Tokelau had a Referendum in February 2006 and the percentage of the votes fell a little short of what was required for Tokelau to become self-determined. Through our General Fono, the people of Tokelau decided to hold another Referendum this year.
I do not know what the people will decide, but as the Ulu o Tokelau I can convey to you the Government of Tokelau’s commitment to self-determination.
Tokelau has been blessed with the strong support and close ties with our administering power. We have also had substantial support from other nations. In October we again have the opportunity to take our place amongst the nations of the world. We make this decision knowing we will have the ongoing support of New Zealand and others. This support is greatly appreciated.
Tui Tokelau e!
Thank you and God bless the work of this Committee.