With thousands of Niueans calling New Zealand home, Niue’s government is keen to try and encourage some of them to return to or resettle on the island of their heritage.(
ABC Pacific beat reports, the government believes becoming the latest member of the Asian Development Bank will help them achieve that, and far from dipping into the vault for infrastructure loans, the Premier considers ADB membership to be an opportunity to upskill the island’s workforce, and increase its numbers.
Niue’s current economy driven by tourism is growing at an annual rate of 3 to 3 point 6 percent annually. Fishing, farming and services needs special review to improve their level of productivity in line with tourism.
“It’s the other sectors that I’m going to focus my attention on to ensure that productivity can be lifted, in the commerce sector, in the fishing sector , in the service sector, this is where we would like to utilize whatever expertise ADB has to help us with that” said Premier Sir Toke Talagi
ADB’s Director Social Sectors & Public Sector Management Division Pacific Emma Veve said there are opportunities in these sectors.
“We’re seeing lots of talk about different potentials, some agricultural options, niche crops, value adding to organic products produced here, how revenue from fisheries can be further enhanced and things like bottled water which has been successful in other Pacific countries” said Veve
The Premier says plans to bottle and export Niuean water are well advanced but some oversight from the ADB wouldn’t go amiss.
“We’re already in the process of getting our water bottling fired up and running. All we’re doing at the moment is looking at confirming markets and selling it.”
On the question of food production, Premier says that’s not about exporting that’s about self sustaining.
“We believe that we should be bringing the consumers to Niue and feed them. The traditional thinking is that we should grow and export. Why don’t we just grow and bring in more and more tourists, feed them the food that we have” said Sir Talagi
However Niue does not want to be overrun by tourists and the Premier says the ADB can play an important role in advising on and managing capacity so the islands pristine natural environment is protected.
Emma Veve says by bringing in Niuean consultants from the Diaspora in New Zealand they can accelerate the process of encouraging those with Niuean heritage to consider relocating to the island.
“An extra 20, 50 people makes a big difference. To bring in Niueans as consultants will also give them a taste of being back in their original homes and perhaps they may be some greater appetite to move here.”
However in the short term, Emma Veve says Niue’s biggest problem is labour supply. At the moment she says the island relies too much on the versatility of its people.
“I’m amazed by how many different jobs and roles, people are juggling here. It’s vastly more than I’ve seen in any other island and the difficult thing is getting labour into the country is quite stark.”