Ministry Statements & Speeches:
Thank you Madam Chair.
On behalf of New Zealand and the Administrator of Tokelau, I say malo ni, warm greetings in the language of Tokelau, to you all. I have the honour to address you today on the Question of Tokelau.
Madam Chair, New Zealand is delighted to note that Tokelau continues to be COVID-19 free. Ensuring that this remains the case has been the key focus of our engagement with Tokelau over the past 15 months.
While Tokelau’s remote geography has afforded it a measure of protection, the smallness of its atolls, its limited healthcare capacity, and the close-knit nature of its communities make it potentially highly vulnerable to the spread of the virus, and it is therefore all the more important that the population is vaccinated as soon as possible. To that end, intensive planning and preparation is under way as we speak, with a view to rolling out COVID-19 vaccinations in Tokelau in the next month.
Meanwhile, the necessity of keeping Tokelau’s borders closed has slowed, but not stopped, ongoing efforts to improve the lives of the people of Tokelau, and further increase their capacity for self-governance, in line with commitments made during the New Zealand Prime Minister’s visit to Tokelau in mid-2019.
Through close cooperation between New Zealand, Tokelau and Samoa, 88 Tokelauans stranded in New Zealand by the COVID-19 pandemic have been repatriated to Tokelau via Samoa, including students, medical patients and their caregivers, essential workers and other residents.
In addition to helping to strengthen Tokelau’s pandemic preparedness, through an additional $4.6 million in supplementary budget support and grant funding, New Zealand has also recruited a health adviser to support improvements in clinical health services.
We have also committed $4 million over 4 years toward implementation of the Government of Tokelau’s secondary and digital education strategies, following a decision by the Tokelau General Fono to integrate more closely with New Zealand’s secondary and tertiary education systems.
Despite the operational constraints posed by COVID-19, progress continues towards a new submarine cable and inter-atoll connection in the coming months, which will bring increased capacity and opportunity for Tokelau across a range of fronts, including education, self-governance, and international connectivity.
Fisheries are Tokelau’s only significant source of independent revenue and have a critical role in contributing to Tokelau’s aspirations for greater self-determination. New Zealand continues to work in partnership with Tokelau to ensure that the fisheries within the Tokelau exclusive economic zone remain sustainably managed.
New Zealand is committed to supporting Tokelau to modernise its body of law to ensure it reflects international norms, and is currently engaging with Tokelau’s leaders in a positive dialogue on improving Tokelau’s legal, judicial and police services.
The challenges posed by COVID-19 have only strengthened New Zealand’s resolve to support Tokelau in its efforts to strengthen its capacity for self-governance and decision-making in the face of such challenges.
Madam Chair, I conclude statement by New Zealand by thanking you for the opportunity to address you today, in the languages of New Zealand te reo Maori and in Tokelauan, namely tena tatou and fakafetai.