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Ministry Statements and Speeches 2011

Special Political and Decolonisation Committee (Fourth Committee) - The Question of Tokelau

Statement delivered by Bernadette Cavanagh, Deputy Permanent Representative, 10 October 2011

Mr Chairman

New Zealand welcomes the draft resolution on the “Question of Tokelau” and appreciates the interest of members of this Committee on this issue.

In June 2011 the Administrator of Tokelau reported to the Committee on the ongoing relationship between Tokelau and New Zealand. The Administrator noted that the focus of the relationship since 2008 has been addressing the core requirements of the atoll populations following the decision by the leaders of Tokelau and New Zealand that there should be an appreciable period of time before Tokelau would undertake any further act of self-determination.

This decision was made following two self-determination referenda where voters signalled that the timing and conditions were not yet right for constitutional change.

The vulnerability of Tokelau has never been more obvious than it is this week. The Ulu of Tokelau has declared a national emergency due to a water shortage on the atolls as a result of a five-month period without rain. New Zealand and Tokelau are working together and with other partners to resolve this crisis. A joint New Zealand-United States air and sea operation has been mounted carrying military water containers and desalination equipment to Tokelau.

Challenges facing Tokelau have been consistent over recent years. Tokelau’s remoteness, its very small population and relative lack of resources combine to challenge both Tokelau and New Zealand as together we seek to ensure a viable future for the people of Tokelau’s three atolls.

Mr Chairman

The Tokelau National Strategic Plan sets out the cultural, economic and social aspirations of Tokelau’s people, and the roles and responsibilities of those who are charged with its delivery.  The National Strategic Plan has formed the basis for a comprehensive planning process undertaken by Tokelau in partnership with New Zealand over the last six months.

The planning process identified Tokelau’s development priorities for the coming four years, and culminated in a Joint Commitment for Development, which was recently signed by Tokelau and New Zealand. The Commitment sets out New Zealand’s financial assistance for the 2011/2012 year, and indicative funding commitments for the remaining three years of agreement.

Over the last year, substantive progress has been made on the construction of two new schools and a hospital; improving the transfer of passengers and goods between ships and the shore; moving towards the introduction of sustainable electricity generation in Tokelau. Importantly, significant advances have been made in securing a purpose built ship which will guarantee regular, reliable and appropriate transport for the communities in Tokelau. However, health and education are ongoing challenges and progress in these areas require Tokelau and New Zealand to work closely together.

Mr Chairman

International engagement is an important goal for all communities. Tokelau plays an active role in regional bodies, including as an Observer to the Pacific Islands Forum where it made a significant contribution during the Auckland Forum in September. Tokelau has also recently been admitted as an Associate Member of the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Tokelau’s needs are primarily met by New Zealand but it is important to acknowledge the others who contribute. Particular thanks are due to the United Nations Development Programme, working through its regional office in Samoa, and the World Health Organisation. We also offer our thanks to those who contribute to the Tokelau International Trust Fund which remains an important resource for the future generations of Tokelau.

Mr Chairman

The relationship between Tokelau and New Zealand is both strong and positive. It is also an evolving relationship. New Zealand will remain respectful of the wishes of the people of Tokelau, and receptive to advice from its leaders on how we can best progress our partnership.  The spirit of self-determination is alive in Tokelau but plans for another Referendum on this will be determined at a time when Tokelau is satisfied that her infrastructure development and human resource capacity are robust enough to cope with its needs. We have chosen to adopt a strategic approach on our current focus to help achieve Tokelau’s most important objective; healthy and safe communities for all of Tokelau’s people

New Zealand takes great pride from its close association with Tokelau, and its evolution.  We welcome the ongoing interest of the Special Committee (C24) in Tokelau and we will continue to report to it on developments.

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Page last updated: Wednesday, 09 January 2013 14:49 NZDT