Ministry Statements & Speeches:
Thank you, 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.
Madame Chair, Aotearoa New Zealand is delighted to note that Tokelau continues to be free of COVID-19. Ensuring that this remains the case has been the key focus of our engagement with Tokelau over the past two years.
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. Border settings and vaccinations remain its two main defences against COVID-19, and I am delighted to note that the vast majority of Tokelau’s population is now vaccinated.
This has been achieved through a combination of contactless delivery of Pfizer vaccines by the New Zealand Defence Force as well as commercial means; virtual training on the administering of the vaccines; and other remote planning and preparation support provided by New Zealand’s Ministry of Health. Tokelau was safely enabled to run its own rollout programme using local clinical staff on each of the three atolls.
The highly successful nature of the vaccine rollout programme is testament both to the close and cooperative relationship between New Zealand and Tokelau, and to Tokelau’s own spirit of self-determination.
It is fitting therefore to note in this context the momentous decision recently taken by Tokelau’s General Fono in late May to begin a new conversation on the broader long-standing question of self-determination for Tokelau, as noted in Ulu o Tokelau Sio Perez’s own statement to this meeting.
New Zealand very much welcomes this decision by Tokelau. As noted in the Joint Statement of Principles of Partnership between New Zealand and Tokelau, self determination for Tokelau remains an important goal for both New Zealand and Tokelau; with both of us committing to working in partnership with the United Nations to achieve a self-determination outcome that fits the local Tokelauan context and has the support of the Tokelauan people.
The Joint Statement also notes that where a self-determination option involves an ongoing relationship between Tokelau and New Zealand, the nature of that relationship will be one that is acceptable to both; and that New Zealand will continue to work with Tokelau to provide the people of Tokelau with balanced and comprehensive information concerning the self-determination options of independence, self-government in free association and full integration.
These shared principles remain the starting point for New Zealand for a refreshed conversation with Tokelau on self-determination, with the 100-year anniversary of New Zealand administration in early 2026 potentially marking an important milestone in the road ahead.
As requested widely by delegates from across Tokelau’s three atolls at its recent General Fono meeting, Tokelau intends to take a measured approach to this question, by seeking to refresh its own thinking by first carefully exploring all options open to it, in order to gradually build a unified understanding. New Zealand welcomes and endorses this approach, and stands ready to support Tokelau from the outset, in line with the joint commitments made under our Statement of Principles of Partnership.
Madame Chair, in addition, New Zealand remains very much focused on working with Tokelau to improve the delivery of public services and build critical infrastructure on the atolls. Despite the operational constraints posed by COVID-19, a new international submarine cable and inter-atoll connection has been landed in Tokelau in recent months, with work now ongoing to secure connections on the atolls themselves. This is a major first for Tokelau, which will bring increased capacity and opportunity across a range of fronts, including education, health, 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 economic exclusive zone remain sustainably managed.
New Zealand is also 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.
In sum, 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 self-determination.
Madame Chair, I conclude New Zealand’s statement by thanking you for the opportunity to address you today, in the languages of New Zealand te reo Maori and in Tokelauan, namely tēnā tātou and fakafetai.
I thank you.