We use cookies for site personalization, analytics and advertising. You can opt out of third party cookies. More info in our privacy policy.   Got it


new internationalist
issue 260 - October 1994

Country profile - Niue

[image, unknown] [image, unknown]
Source: NIUE TOURISM OFFICE [image, unknown]
Source: NIUE TOURISM OFFICE go to the contents page [image, unknown]

Niue (pronounced 'New-ay') can claim fame for being the largest and the smallest. It is the largest uplifted coral atoll in the world with an area of 259 square kilometre - and one of the smallest microstates in the world. More Niueans live in Aotearoa/New Zealand than on the atoll itself.

In 1899 the King of Niue requested a British representative to preside over the Niuean Government. The British soon passed this representation to New Zealand who administered the island from 1901 until 1974 when Niue became self-governing. Aotearoa/New Zealand retains constitutional responsibilities for defence and foreign affairs. All Niueans hold New Zealand citizenship.

The Westminster-style parliament comprises a representative from each of the fourteen villages on the island, plus six others elected from a common roll. A Premier is selected from the twenty members, and in turn the premier chooses a cabinet of three.

The Niuean economy is virtually dependent upon aid from Aotearoa and remittances from Niueans living abroad. Economic self-sufficiency is currently unviable due to various constraints. Attempts to stimulate the agricultural sector have been frustrated by environmental factors. The rocky nature of the terrain and the lack of running streams leaves a shortage of fertile soil. Weather conditions are unpredictable - the hurricanes of 1959 and 1960 devastated the island.

Cash crops like coconut, passion fruit, copra and honey all followed the trend of a boom-and-bust cycle, but attempts are being made to revive the once profitable lime industry.

Outward migration has been a big drain on Niue's workforce and with 80 per cent of the population employed by the Government, there is little surplus labour for agricultural production. However the government workforce has been heavily reduced recently in order to encourage workers to develop private sector activities.

Primary school is free and grants enable students to travel to Aotearoa for secondary and tertiary education. Most healthcare is also free and aid is available to transfer critically ill patients to Aotearoa for treatment.

The majority of trading to and from Niue is with Aotearoa, with freight carried by sea, but imports heavily outweigh exports. In the year ending December 1993, exports amounted to NZ$420,000 (US$252,000) whilst imports to Niue totalled NZ$3.52 million (US$2.1).

The new Premier, Frank Lui, is keen to put Niue on the international tourist map. Adventure holidays and eco-tourism are seen as the mainspring of future economic development. And with its hundreds of caves, crevices and chasms, and excellent diving, the coral island of Niue is attractive.

But for the present the dilemma of depopulation and total aid dependence still pervades the life of the Niuean people.

Orly Jacobson


LEADER: premier Frank Lui

ECONOMY: Aid averaging NZ$10 (US$6) million per annum until 1990, recently reduced to NZ$7 (US$4.2) million.
Monetary Unit: NZ dollar.
Main Imports: Domestic goods and merchandise, foodstuffs, machinery.
Main Exports: Taro (a starchy food-plant), handicrafts, limes. The 11-12 per cent of total land considered cultivable is volcanic and fertile. Production constrained by poor terrain, porous soil, low water table and extremely fragmented holdings.

PEOPLE: 2,300 (on the island: 12,000 in Aotearoa/New Zealand)

HEALTH: Good, free health care.

CULTURE: Polynesian. Niuean community structure based on the extended family system. The village is an independent unit and an integral part of social and political life.
Religion: Mainly Christian. Missionaries from London Missionary Society arrived in 1846 and began converting islanders from traditional Niuean religion. Peniamina day celebrates day Christianity came to the island.
Language: Official languages: English and Niuean. English spoken in business circles. otherwise the traditional Norfolk dialect (a mixture of old English and Tahitian).

Sources: Asia and Pacific review 1993-4



[image, unknown] INCOME DISTRIBUTION [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown]
Cash economy small, but growing.
[image, unknown] LITERACY [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown]
Free schooling.
[image, unknown] SELF-RELIANCE [image, unknown]
Totally dependent on external aid and remittances.
[image, unknown] FREEDOM [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown]
Local and High courts in use.
[image, unknown] POSITION OF WOMEN [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown]
Improving as educational opportunities expand.
[image, unknown] LIFE EXPECTANCY [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown]
71 years (for Polynesia). (US 76 years)




Slightly right of centre - democratic parliament, but influenced by politics in Aotearoa/New Zealand.


NI star rating

[image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown]
[image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown]
[image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown]
[image, unknown] [image, unknown]
[image, unknown]

previous page choose a different magazine go to the contents page go to the NI home page [image, unknown]

New Internationalist issue 260 magazine cover This article is from the October 1994 issue of New Internationalist.
You can access the entire archive of over 500 issues with a digital subscription. Subscribe today »


Help us produce more like this

Editor Portrait Patreon is a platform that enables us to offer more to our readership. With a new podcast, eBooks, tote bags and magazine subscriptions on offer, as well as early access to video and articles, we’re very excited about our Patreon! If you’re not on board yet then check it out here.

Support us »

Subscribe   Ethical Shop