Mr Chairman and members of the Special Committee
Ulu of Tokelau Foua Toloa
Members of the Secretariat
Colleagues and friends of Tokelau
On behalf of New Zealand in its capacity as administering authority of Tokelau, it is my honour to address this Committee on the “Question of Tokelau”.
In the year under review little attention has been given to the issues of decolonisation.
This is because in February 2008 the leaders of Tokelau and New Zealand made a commitment that there should be an appreciable period of time before Tokelau would undertake any further act of self-determination, and that both parties in the relationship would devote their time, efforts and resources to addressing the core requirements of the atoll populations.
This commitment was made following the second self-determination referendum at which time voters signalled that the timing and conditions were not yet right for further constitutional change.
In keeping with the 2008 commitment, our focus during the year under review has been on the ongoing development and advancement of Tokelau.
The challenges facing Tokelau have been referred to in statements to this committee in 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.
Considerable progress has been achieved in the past year but much more needs to be accomplished.
When this Committee last met to consider Tokelau, it was on the eve of the launch of Tokelau’s National Strategic Plan. The 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 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 joint commitment for development sets out very explicitly what Tokelau and New Zealand are committing to do over the term of the agreement so as to achieve the outcomes identified in the agreement. The agreement also sets out New Zealand’s funding commitments for the 2011/2012 financial year, and indicative funding commitments for the remaining three years of agreement.
During the period under review 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; and, resolving Tokelau’s short term and longer term transport requirements.
Health and education are ongoing challenges. Health services in Tokelau have improved but outcomes have declined. The incidence of non-communicable diseases is alarming. This represents a high financial and personal cost to Tokelau, which cannot be sustained. Addressing non-communicable diseases is an issue of leadership as much as it is a health issue.
Real improvement has been seen in the education of young Tokelauans over the last three years. However, significant investment in the professional development of Tokelau’s teachers is required to ensure that the full benefit of the recent work in education is achieved. The decision by the General Fono in November to support an investment in professional development for teachers was very positive.
The relationship between Tokelau and New Zealand is a strong relationship. It is a very positive relationship. New Zealand remains committed to working with Tokelau and its leaders as they determine their future.
New Zealand has traditionally had three pillars to its approach on the implementation of independence to colonial countries and peoples. We have always seen it as our responsibility to encourage and support territories along the path to greater political self-reliance. We have always taken the view that it is for the people of the territories themselves to determine both the direction and pace of their political evolution. And finally we have sought to cooperate fully with the United Nations, and with this Committee in particular, in discharging our responsibilities as the administering power of Tokelau. We continue to follow these principles, and to look to find solutions that work for Tokelau. We have enjoyed a close partnership with the United Nations on this work and broader areas of support, and in this regard I would like to give special acknowledgement to the work of the UNDP regional office in Samoa for their support to Tokelau.
I have wanted to use this time to highlight that our relationship with Tokelau is an evolving one, and one which is moving in a positive trajectory. 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. While the formal constitutional relationship may be paused for now, we have chosen to adopt a flexible 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.
Thank you for your time today.