Niue is 2,400 kilometres northeast of New Zealand in a triangle between Tonga, Samoa, and the Cook Islands. The Niuean language and the English language are taught in schools and both are used in day-to-day business and communications. The people are predominantly Polynesian.
Until the beginning of the 18th century, there appears to have been no national government or national leader in Niue. Before then, chiefs and heads of families exercised authority over segments of the population. Around 1700 the concept and practice of kingship appears to have been introduced through contact with Samoa or Tonga. From then on, a succession of patu-iki (kings) ruled the island, the first of whom was Puni-mata. Tui-toga, who reigned from 1875 to 1887, was the first Christian king of Niue.
The first European to sight Niue was Captain James Cook in 1774. Cook made three attempts to land on the island but was refused permission to do so by the Polynesian inhabitants. He named the island "Savage Island" because, legend has it, the natives that "greeted" him were painted in what appeared (to Cook and his crew) to be blood. However, the substance on their teeth was that of betel nut and not blood.
For the next couple of centuries the island remained known as Savage Island, until its original name Niu ē, which translates to "behold the coconut", regained use. Its official name is still Niuē fekai (wild Niuē).
The next notable European visitors were from the London Missionary Society and arrived in 1846 on the "Messenger of Peace". After many years of trying to land a European missionary on Niue, a Niuean named Nukai Peniamina was taken away and trained as a Pastor at the Malua Theological College in Samoa. Peniamina returned as a missionary with the help of Toimata Fakafitifonua. He was finally allowed to land in Uluvehi Mutalau after a number of attempts in other villages had failed. The Chiefs of Mutalau village allowed Peniamina to land and assigned over 60 warriors to protect him day and night at the fort in Fupiu. Christianity was first taught to the Mutalau people before it was spread to all the villages on Niue; originally, other major villages opposed the introduction of Christianity and had sought to kill Peniamina. The people from the village of Hakupu, although the last village to receive Christianity, came and asked for a "word of god"; hence their village was renamed "Ha Kupu Atua" meaning "any word of god", or "Hakupu" for short.
In 1887, King Fata-a-iki, who reigned from 1887 to 1896, offered to cede sovereignty over his country to the British Empire, fearing the consequences of annexation by a less benevolent colonial power. The offer was not accepted until 1900.
Niue was a British protectorate for a time, but the UK's involvement ended in 1901 when New Zealand annexed the island. Independence in the form of self-government was granted by the New Zealand parliament with the 1974 constitution. Robert Rex, CMG OBE (who was ethnically part European, part native) was appointed the country's first Premier, a position he continued to hold through re-election until his death 18 years later. Rex became the first Niuean to receive knighthood in 1984.
In January 2004, Niue was hit by Cyclone Heta, which killed two people and caused extensive damage to the entire island, as well as wiping out most of the south of the capital, Alofi.
The assembly consists of twenty democratically elected members, fourteen of whom are elected by the electors of each village constituency. The remaining six are elected by all registered voters in all constituencies. Electors must be New Zealand citizens, resident for at least three months, and candidates must have been electors, and resident for twelve months. It is a requirement under law that anyone who was born in Niue must register on the electoral roll; however it is up to the elector whether to vote or not to vote on polling day. If two candidates have the same number of votes, the votes are recounted; if the number of votes is still equal following the recount, the name of the winning candidate is drawn out of a hat. The Speaker is elected by the assembly and is the first official to be elected in the first sitting of the Legislative Assembly following an election. The new Speaker calls for nominations for the Premier; the candidate with the most votes from the twenty members is elected. The Premier then selects three other members to form the Cabinet of Ministers, the executive arm of government. The other two organs of government, following the Westminster model, are the Legislative Assembly and the Judiciary. Terms before new elections last three years, with the latest election due on 7 June 2008 as part of the Niuean general election, 2008.
Niue is a 269 km² island located in the southern Pacific Ocean, east of Tonga. The geographic coordinates of Niue are .
Niue is one of the world's largest coral islands. The terrain of Niue consists of steep limestone cliffs along the coast with a central plateau rising to about 60 metres above sea level. A coral reef surrounds the island, with the only major break in the reef being in the central western coast, close to the capital, Alofi. A notable feature of the island is the number of limestone caves found close to the coast.
The island is roughly oval in shape (with a diameter of about 18 kilometres), with two large bays indenting the western coast (Alofi Bay in the centre and Avatele Bay in the south). Between these is the promontory of Halagigie Point. A small peninsula, TePā Point (or Blowhole Point), is located close to the settlement of Avatele in the southwest. Most of the island's population resides close to the west coast, around the capital, and in the northwest.
Some of the soils on the island are geochemically very unusual. They are extremely highly weathered tropical soils, with high levels of iron and aluminium oxides (oxisol), and mercury, but as established by the research of New Zealand scientists starting with Sir Ernest Marsden, they contain surprisingly high levels of natural radioactivity. There is almost no uranium, but the radionucleides Th-230 and Pa-231 head the decay chains. This is the same distribution of elements as found naturally on very deep seabeds, but the geochemical evidence suggests that in the case of Niue the origin is extreme weathering of coral and brief sea submergence 120,000 years ago. A process, "endothermal upwelling" in which mild natural volcanic heat entrains deep seawater up through the porous coral may also contribute.
No adverse health effects from the radioactivity or other trace elements have been demonstrated and calculations show that level of radioactivity would probably be much too low to be detected in the population.
The time difference between Niue and mainland New Zealand is 23 hours during the Southern Hemisphere winter and 24 hours when the mainland uses the Daylight Saving Time. So the watch at Niue and Auckland show the same time, although Niue is one day behind.
Niue is also a member of the South Pacific Forum and a number of regional and international agencies. It is not a member of the United Nations, but is a state party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Ottawa Treaty.
Niue established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China on December 12, 2007.
Niue is also a party to the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement, and currently negotiating for the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union (EU-PACP), and will be starting soon the negotiations on the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations with New Zealand and Australia.
Niue's economy is rather small, with a GDP of around $7.6 million estimated in 2000. Most economic activity revolves around the Government, as the Government was traditionally in charge of organising and managing the affairs of the new country since 1974. However, since the economy of Niue has reached a stage where state regulation may now give way to the private sector in Niue's development, there is an ongoing effort to develop the private sector. Following Cyclone Heta, the Government made a major commitment towards rehabilitating and developing the private sector in Niue. The Government allocated $1 million for the private sector, which was spent on helping businesses devastated by the cyclone, and on the construction of the Fonuakula Industrial Park. This industrial park is now completed and some businesses are already operating from it. The Fonuakula Industrial Park is managed by the Niue Business Centre, a quasi-governmental organisation providing advisory services to the businesses on Niue.
Most Niuean families grow their own food crops for subsistence and some are sold at the Niue Makete in Alofi while some are exported to their families in New Zealand. The Niuean taro is known in Samoa as Niue taro and in international markets as pink taro. Niue also exports taro to the New Zealand market. The Niue taro is a natural variety and is very resistant to pests.
The Niue Government and the Reef Group from New Zealand started two joint ventures in 2003 and 2004 involving the development of the fisheries and noni (Morinda citrifolia, a small tree with edible fruit) in Niue. The Niue Fish Processors, Ltd. is a joint venture company processing fresh fish, mainly tuna (yellow fin, big eye and albacore), for export to the overseas markets. NFP operates out of their state-of-the-art fish plant in Amanau Alofi South which was completed and opened in October 2004.
In August 2005, an Australian mining company, Yamarna Goldfields, suggested that Niue might have the world's largest deposit of uranium. By early September, these hopes were seen as overoptimistic, and in late October the company cancelled its plans to mine, announcing that exploration drilling had identified nothing of commercial value. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission filed charges in January 2007 against two directors of the company, now called Mining Projects Group Ltd, alleging that their conduct was deceptive and they engaged in insider trading. This case was settled out of court in July 2008, both sides withdrawing their claims . There is an Australian company that had been issued a mineral prospecting license in the early 1970s which is still very active in doing research and collecting data on potential mineral deposits on Niue.
Remittances from Niuean expatriates used to be one of the major sources of foreign exchange in the 1970s and early 1980s. The continuous migration of Niueans to New Zealand, however, has shifted most members of nuclear and extended families to New Zealand, removing the need to send remittances back home. In the late 1990s PFTAC conducted studies on the Niue balance of payments, which confirms that Niueans are receiving little remittances but are sending more monies overseas, mainly for paying for imported goods and for the education of Niuean students sent to study in New Zealand.
Foreign aid, principally from New Zealand, has been the island's principal source of income.
Government expenses consistently exceed revenue to a substantial degree, with aid from New Zealand subsidizing public service payrolls. The government also generates some revenue, mainly from income tax, import tax and the lease of phone lines. The government briefly flirted with the creation of "offshore banking", but, under pressure from the US Treasury, agreed to end its support for schemes designed to minimize tax in countries like New Zealand. Niue now provides an automated Companies Registration (www.companies.gov.nu), which is administered by the New Zealand Ministry of Economic Development.
Niue has licensed the .nu top-level domain on the Internet to a private company .NU Domain. The Government of Niue later disputed the amount and type of compensation that Niue should receive from the licensor, but in 2007 the government dismissed its own claims. The Government of Niue is planning to setup and operate its own internet service provider (ISP) to ensure that Government communications are independent and secured. The sole ISP in Niue is operated by the Internet Users Society of Niue (IUSN), a subsidiary of .NU Domain, which provides free internet access to all residents. Despite claims by IUSN of Niue becoming the first WiFiNation, not all the villages in Niue have access to the Internet.
In 2003 the Government made a commitment to develop and expand the vanilla production in Niue with the support of the NZAID. Vanilla has grown wild in Niue for a long time. Despite the setback caused by the devastation of Cyclone Heta in early 2004, there was ongoing work on vanilla production. The expansion plan started with the employment of unemployed or underemployed labour force to help clear land, plant supporting trees and plant vanilla vines. The approach to accessing land include having each household interested to have a small plot of around half to to be cleared and planted with vanilla vines. There are a lot of planting material for supporting trees to meet demand for the expansion of vanilla plantations, however there is a severe shortage of vanilla vines for planting stock. There is of course the existing vanilla vines, but cutting them for planting stock will reduce or stop vanilla from producing beans. At the moment the focus is in the areas of harvesting and marketing.
Niue's economy suffered from the devastating tropical Cyclone Heta on 4 January 2004. The Niue Integrated Strategic Plan(NISP) is the national development plan of Niue, setting national priorities for development. Cyclone Heta took away about two years from the implementation of the NISP, while national efforts concentrate on the recovery efforts. As of 2008 Niue has yet to fully recover from the devastation of Cyclone Heta.
Niue uses the New Zealand dollar.
The number of tourists visiting Niue is increasing, climbing from 1939 in 2000 to 1446 in 2001, 2084 in 2002, 2706 in 2003, 2550 in 2004, and 2793 in 2005. The main purpose of their visits in 2005 were: holiday (1236), business (664), visiting friends and relatives (591) and other reasons (302). In 2005 tourists came from the following countries: Australia (304), New Zealand (1529), the South Pacific (296), Other Pacific (99), USA (136), Canada (45), UK (99), Germany (31), France (37), Other European countries (128), Japan (8) and other Asian countries (36).
In 2003, Niue became the first territory to offer free wireless internet to all its inhabitants. In August 2008 it has been reported that 100 percent of primary and high school students have what is known as a One Laptop Per Child, or OLPC, a green laptop designed specifically for children in the developing world.
Arguably Niue's most prominent artist and writer is John Pule. Author of The Shark That Ate the Sun, he paints both on canvass and on traditional tapa cloth. In 2005, he co-wrote Hiapo: Past and Present in Niuean Barkcloth, a study of a traditional Niuean artform, with Australian writer and anthropologist Nicholas Thomas.
Taoga Niue is a newly established Government Department responsible for the preservation of the culture, tradition and heritage of Niue. As part of recognising its importance, the Government has add Taoga Niue as the sixth pillar of the Niue Integrated Strategic Plan (NISP).
Agriculture is very important to the lifestyle of Niueans and the economy of Niue. Subsistence agriculture is very much part of Niue's agriculture, where nearly all the households have plantations of taro. Taro is a staple food of Niue, and the pink taro now dominant in the taro markets in New Zealand and Australia, is an intellectual property of Niue. This is one of the natural taro varieties on Niue, and has a strong resistance to pests.
Tapioca or cassava, yams and kumaras also grow very well on Niue, as do different varieties of bananas. Copra, passionfruit and limes dominated exports in the 1970s, but as of 2008 vanilla, noni and taros are Niue's main export crops.
Coconut crab is also part of the food chain in Niue; it lives in the forest and coastal areas. The last Agricultural Census conducted in Niue was in 1989 http://www.fao.org/ES/ess/census/wcares/Niue_1989.pdf.
Despite Niue being a small country, a number of different sports are popular there. Rugby union is a popular sport in Niue played both by men and women; as of 2008, Niue are the current FORU Oceania Cup champions. Netball is played only by women. The 9 hole golf course at Fonuakula provides an opportunity for some locals to play golf. There is also a lawn bowling green under construction, and it is hoped that it will be completed soon, giving everyone a chance to participate in the sport. Soccer is also popular as evidenced by the Niue Soccer Tournament.
The traditional sports of Niue includes tika, throwing slightly similar to javelin, and bowling coconuts for women.