Niue (New Zealand)
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Niue is a small coral island in Polynesia, located east of Tonga and southeast of Western Samoa. The island is approximately 21km by 18km and has no mountains or rivers. The island has a coastline of rugged coves rather than the long stretches of sandy beaches common to Polynesian islands. The capital city is Alofi.
Population and language
The population of Niue was 1,625 in 2006, significantly less than the 1970s, when the population was around 4,000. The decrease is largely attributable to migration, principally to New Zealand, for education and employment opportunities. The official languages are Vagahau Niue and English. The Niuean language is based on both Samoan and Tongan with traces from Pukapuka, the language of an island among the Cook Islands.
History, politics and law
Niue gained its independence in 1974 following a decade of consultation with New Zealand and the United Nations, opting for a form of self-government in free association with New Zealand. This arrangement allows Niueans to remain citizens of New Zealand. The island does not have hierarchical society, but rather a system based on family units.
The Legislative Assembly acts as the elected legislature for the country, with a representative for each of the fourteen villages on the island, and a further six representing the island as a whole. This assembly holds full law-making powers, though national law is constituted of the law of New Zealand prior to 1974, as well as the enactments of the national legislative assembly. The laws of the New Zealand legislature passed after 1974 are not incorporated into Niuean law unless approved by the Legislative Assembly.
Niue's economy is subsidised by foreign aid from a number of sources, primarily New Zealand, but also the Global Environment Fund, the United Nations, the People's Republic of China and the European Union. Subsistence agriculture is a vital part of Niuean life, though cash cropping provides minor exports including crops such as vanilla and nonu. However, the limited human resources to carry out farming, as well as the lack of export markets for the goods have limited national interest in growing cash crops. The country's total export value totalled NZ$27,000 in 2009.
Cyclone Heta, which hit the Island in January 2004, also caused substantial damage to crops and infrastructure, setting back the country's economic development.
Civil society and media
Television and radio programming is limited in Niue, though there is one free to air television station for the island, a radio service and one local newspaper that publishes weekly.
Human rights and children's rights
Niue has very few laws that makes specific reference to children. The Committee on the Rights of the Child is yet to render observations on Niuean law, but several areas are likely to be highlighted as problematic. The minimum legal age for marriage is discriminatory, with legislation allowing boys to marry at 18 but girls at 15, and a child is defined as any person under the age of 20. The age of criminal responsibility is also low, at 10 years.
- State Report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, July 2011
- Niue Government Website
- BBC, Niue Profile