07.08.19 - The Ulu o Tokelau, Faipule Kelihiano Kalolo, on behalf of the Council and people of Tokelau, acknowledges with deep appreciation the recent visit by the Prime Minster of New Zealand, Rt. Hon. Jacinda Adern, to Tokelau.
It was only the fourth prime ministerial visit to Tokelau in their 93-year constitutional relationship. And Tokelauans have noted that all of these visits were by sitting Prime Ministers from Labour-led governments.
“The people of Tokelau felt the warm empathy shown by the Prime Minister especially towards our school children. Her visit served to remind ordinary Kiwis that Tokelauans are also New Zealand citizens and part of the Realm of New Zealand with Cook Islands, and Niue,” stated Hon Kalolo.
“In the face-to-face meetings with our leaders, she welcomed ideas from Tokelau and supported the need to consolidate the work in education, health and infrastructural developments so we can build a better future for generations.
“She was also very receptive to revisiting our current Joint Partnership Agreement signed in 2004, with a view to taking the Tokelau-New Zealand relationship to another level. The aim is to provide sustainable benefits Tokelau, its communities, and protecting our unique culture and language,” he concluded.
At the Pacific Leaders’ Forum next week, Hon Kalolo and Prime Minister Ardern will look to further advance key areas from the visit at a bilateral meeting. The Tuvalu meeting takes place from 13 to 16 August and the theme for the two leaders, which was picked up by PM Ardern in her Tokelau visit: Kite ko! “Let’s do this.”
History records New Zealand parliamentarians visiting the Tokelaus seven times: Four Prime Ministers, and three by ministers in their 93-year relationship.
The first visit was by Peter Fraser in 1944 by plane, landing in Atafu. This was followed by David Lange, Helen Clark and last week, Jacinda Adern.
It is noted by Tokelauans, distant ordinary New Zealand citizens, these Prime Ministerial visits have all been by Labour Government leaders.
They also welcomed and celebrated the second visit in less than a year by their own son, Minister Kris Faafoi, another Labour Minister. However, Locals do recall the only visit by a National Government Minister, was by Hon Roger McClay in 1993.
Prime Minister Ardern stressed the need for more regular prime ministerial and ministerial visits to Tokelau.
PM Jacinda Ardern with staff and students at Atafu’s Matauala School.
PM Jacinda Ardern backed up by HMNZS Otago’s Multicultural Group, perform for Fakaofo’s Tialeniu School.
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Tokelau is a non-self-governing territory of New Zealand. It is located in the Pacific Ocean north of Samoa and south of the Equator (9 00 S, 172 00 W). It is only accessible by boat, taking an estimated 28hours to reach the closest atoll, Fakaofo, a further three hours to Nukunonu, and another six hours to Atafu.
It is made up of the three small atolls named above, separated from each other by high seas. The total land area is approximately 12 km². The total sea area of the exclusive economic zone is approximately 518,000 km². The height above sea level is between 3-5 meters, the maximum width is 200 meters. Tokelau is therefore particularly vulnerable to natural disasters and impacts of climate change such as sea-level rise.
The people of Tokelau are New Zealand citizens. Their relationship hailed by the United Nations as a model for other territories and administering countries to follow.
The population of 1499 (2016 census) is spread approximately equally among the three atolls (Atafu (541); Fakaofo (506) and Nukunonu (452). The traditional lifestyle was subsistence but Tokelau has moved to a cash economy. The only natural resource of any current economic significance is the fishery of the exclusive economic zone.
Tokelau has no main town; each island has its own administrative centre, hospital, school and basic infrastructure. There are no airstrips or harbours. Access is by ship only, through the Port of Apia, Samoa.
There are approximately 7000 Tokelauans living in New Zealand, and smaller communities live in Australia, American Samoa, Samoa, Rapa Nui, and Hawaii.