Hon Afega Gaualofa and Ms Maria Reynen Clayton representing the Administrator of Tokelau at the General Fono
The third session of Tokelau’s legislative assembly, General Fono, for 2017 was officially opened by the Ulu o Tokelau, Hon Siopili Perez in Nukunonu yesterday.
The major highlight of the first day’s session was the announcement that New Zealand’s new Foreign Affairs Minister, Vaovasamanaia, Rt Hon, Winston Peters has signed into effect their $15.8million commitment in the $20.5million upgrade of the ‘Ship to Shore’ infrastructure project.
“I did not expect this,” said an overwhelmed Minister for Transport, Hon Afega Gaualofa.
“This is such great news because now it means we can start. We can now sign a contract and finally get moving on this very important project that will improve the safety for our travelling public, and fast track many of the goals in our transport plan and other key development areas in Tokelau’s national plan.”
New Zealand has already paid $1.77m to the Government Tokelau for this project, and Tokelau has already allocated $1.5m towards it.
The timetable will see Atafu and Nukunonu completed in 2018, and Fakaofo in 2019.
The idea of the project started in 2010 with the view that a safe and efficient ship-to-shore capability is a critical enabler of all transportation. Over the past years, Tokelau and New Zealand worked together on the designs and recently tendered for the necessary upgrades of existing infrastructure.
During these times, the importance of the project was always the priority for Tokelau with three lives lost in Atafu a reminder for urgency. In Atafu, ship to shore operations are only possible during hightide, a constant reminder of the dangers and risks to locals and visitors.
This year, the designs were revised to enable the planned inter-atoll vessel and similar vessels to operate. . This required deepening and broadening of the channels, and the addition of ramps.
The designs for the four locations were discussed with the villages and include future proofing against climate change impacts. The designs are for a high quality product with a 50 year life.
With the new requirements, the cost of the project increased further. It meant the cost per person was very high and therefore, the business case that Rt Hon Winston Peters later endorsed, focused on more than transport safety and efficiency. It quantified the benefits of Search and Rescue, medical evacuations and the benefits of transporting Tokelau’s political leaders, professionals (such as doctors and teachers), consultants, skilled tradespeople and technicians between the atolls when necessary. The demand for moving people and light freight between the nuku will increase with the upcoming public service relocation, and the ongoing work of government which is to improve quality of life and services for the nuku.
The total cost of the project, $20.5million covers high quality construction services and project management, surveillance and quality assurance services.
New Zealand’s $15.8m contribution is based on the understanding that the Government of Tokelau would contribute an additional $1.5m. In addition to contributing a total of $3m, the Government of Tokelau will budget for all the costs of ship to shore operations and asset management; with New Zealand contributing indirectly through its budget support and offering technical advice.
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.