Premier Tagelagi said “The government does not have any land and I think if anything we must always pay respect to the families and the landowners whose lands were either gifted or acquired by the government”.
The premier’s comments were made at the blessing ceremony of the site for the new power facility at Tuila yesterday. The blessing was conducted by the president of the Ekalesia Niue Rev. Nuka Tauevihi but it did not go down well for the traditional landowners of the site.
The power facility is funded by the Australian government whose high commissioner Susan Allen was at the ceremony.
One of the landowners told BCN news that they were not aware of the blessing ceremony and were only informed by the officials about fifteen minutes before 10 am when the ceremony was due to start.
She said that they accept that the land is crown land now, but it was disrespectful of the government not to acknowledge the ancestors of the land.
The new power facility was initially planned to be built at Kaimiti but was put on hold because the residents living close by were not consulted.
The issue of recognition of the traditional landowners of crown lands is not new. BCN is aware of families in Alofi having issues with the government about land leases. Most of the crown lands are located in Alofi.
It is perhaps timely that Premier Tagelagi who is from Alofi south has set the tone now expecting wider consultations within the community before any government project is initiated.
He said two weeks ago, his office sent out letters to around thirty landowners and residents close to Tuila informing them of the government’s intentions to build the supplementary power facility there.
Premier Tagelagi told BCN news that when it comes to government projects he expects the government officials to ensure that families and traditional landowners of crown land are always acknowledged going forward.