Status: Self-governing in free association with New Zealand.
Population: 1,520 (2008)
Time: GMT minus 11hr
Currency: New Zealand dollar (NZ$)
Niue is a coral island in the South Pacific, stretching 19km from north to south, lying 480km east of Tonga and 930km west of the Cook Islands.
Area: 259 sq km
Main town: Alofi (pop. 570 in 2009); there are 14 villages. The government may not sell the freehold to land, but may grant 60-year leases.
Topography: Niue is a raised coral outcrop rising to a height of 65m, and full of caves and fissures. The coast is steep and jagged; a coral reef surrounds the island. There are no rivers, but good-quality water from wells is plentiful. The soil is fertile, but not abundant and endangered by over-cropping and by bulldozing and burning to clear the land. Since 1983, cover crops have been allowed to grow along with the crops, to keep the soil moist.
Climate: Tropical, with cooling south-east trade winds and occasional storms. The rainy season is from December to March.
Environment: There is increasing attention to conservationist practices to counter loss of soil fertility from traditional slash and burn agriculture.
Vegetation: Bush and forest. There are about 5,400 hectares of commercially viable forest, and also fruit trees and coconut palms.
Transport/Communications: There are some 120km of paved roads.
Only small ships are able to berth at Alofi, Niue’s port, so goods and passengers are transferred to and from larger ships in smaller vessels.
The international dialling code is 683. There are 659 main telephone lines, 385 mobile phone subscriptions and 659 internet users per 1,000 people (2008).
Population: 1,520 (2008); population density 6 per sq km; some 39% lives in urban areas; life expectancy around 63 years.
The people are largely of Polynesian descent (originally from Samoa and Tonga). There are 20,100 Niueans living in New Zealand (2001 New Zealand census). The government is attempting to stem depopulation and encourage Niueans to return home.
Religion: Mainly Christians (Protestants 75% and Latter-day Saints 10%).
Language: Niuean and English are official languages; Niuean is the national language.
Media: Niue Star is published weekly.
Education: There are 12 years of compulsory education starting at age five. The pupil–teacher ratio for both primary and secondary is 8:1 (2005). The school year starts in January.
Education beyond Form 6 is largely provided in New Zealand, Australia and Fiji Islands. Niue is a partner in the regional University of the South Pacific, which has its main campus in Suva, Fiji Islands. There is an extension centre of the university in Niue. Adult literacy is virtually 100%.
Health: A new hospital, Niue Foou, opened in 2006 following the devastation of Niue’s then only hospital, Lord Liverpool Hospital, by Cyclone Heta in January 2004.
Tropical diseases are not generally prevalent, though there have been occasional outbreaks of dengue fever.
Public holidays: New Year’s Day, Takai Commission Holiday (2 January), Waitangi Day (anniversary of the 1840 treaty, 6 February), ANZAC Day (25 April), Queen’s Official Birthday (first Monday in June), Constitution Day (two days in October), Peniamina Day (anniversary of the landing of the first missionaries, October), Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Religious and other festivals whose dates vary from year to year include Good Friday and Easter Monday.
Overview: With its tiny economic base, declining population and limited potential for exports, Niue is dependent on aid from New Zealand, which gradually declined during the 1990s. Despite attempts to diversify the economy (for example, into offshore finance) it remains fragile and self-sufficiency is not likely. There were some 5,000 tourist arrivals in 2008.
Trade: The main exports are vegetables, honey and vanilla; main imports are food, live animals, fuels, and consumer and capital goods. Main trading partners are New Zealand, Australia, Japan and Fiji Islands. Imports far exceed exports, and the annual trade deficit is large.
Aid: New Zealand is Niue’s main aid partner, providing total assistance of NZ$8.7 million in 2006/07.
Samoans and Tongans are thought to have been Niue’s first inhabitants. The island was visited by Captain James Cook in 1774; he named it ‘Savage Island’ after the warlike reputation of the people. The London Missionary Society began administering the island in 1846. It became a British protectorate in 1900, and the following year it was annexed to New Zealand as a dependency. Emigration began with the recruitment of Niueans to work in the phosphate mines of the region.
In 1974 Niue became self-governing in free association with New Zealand.
After ten years of discussions with the USA, a treaty fixing the sea boundary between Niue and American Samoa was signed in May 1997.
Under the 1974 constitution, Niue is self-governing in free association with New Zealand, which is still responsible for defence and the conduct of foreign affairs. Its people are citizens of New Zealand and UK subjects. The legislative assembly has 20 members (one for each village and six elected every three years on a common roll) with universal adult suffrage. Government is headed by the premier, elected by the assembly. The cabinet consists of the premier and three members of the assembly. The New Zealand High Commissioner conducts transactions between the Niue and New Zealand governments. There are 14 village councils whose members are elected and serve for three years.
Last elections: June 2008
Next elections: 2011
Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by the governor-general of New Zealand
Head of government: Premier Toke Talagi
Until 1987 politics was conducted on an individual and not a party basis. The Niue People’s Party (NPP) was then formed and participated in elections until 2003 when it was dissolved. Political issues include the need to stem depopulation, diversify the economy, develop tourism and encourage expatriate Niueans to invest in the country.
Robert Rex was Niue’s first premier when it became self-governing in 1974. He remained in post, with three-yearly general elections, until his death in 1992. He was succeeded by Young Vivian, who lost power to Frank Lui in the elections of March 1993.
In the general election in March 1999 Lui lost his seat and announced his retirement. He was succeeded by Sani Lakatani of the NPP, which gained a majority in the 20-seat assembly.
In the general election in April 2002 there was close to 100% voter turnout and all 20 assembly members were returned, eight of the village representatives unopposed. The NPP won six seats and formed a government with the support of independent members. Young Vivian of the NPP became premier and Sani Lakatani his deputy.
In the April 2005 election, Vivian was elected unopposed, and was subsequently confirmed as premier when he received the endorsement of 17 assembly members.
In the Niue Assembly vote following the general election in June 2008, Toke Talagi defeated incumbent premier Young Vivian by 14 votes to 5 and became premier for the first time.