While most of the newly elected village councils have been officially sworn in to comply with the Village Council Act 2016, there are a few villages that have yet to complete that process.
The village of Lakepa has two of their elected members in Auckland right now unable to return due to the suspended passenger flights. Ms Rhonda Tiakia and Mr Ezra Togiamana are both stuck in Auckland awaiting the okay to return home.
In a similar predicament, Priscilla Iloilo Mokalei of Tuapa is also in Auckland on medical leave.
The law does provide options for such circumstances, one option is by signing a declaration. This will require the Director of the Department of Justice, Lands & Surveys, and Community Affairs will have to provide a form with the oath contained in it which will have to be signed by the councillors who are overseas.
Another interpretation of the law is that if the elected member was already elected in the previous term and was re-elected in this election, then the oath they took in that previous term is considered valid.
16(1) of the Village Council Act 2016 states “Unless re-elected, village council members vacate office immediately after the new village council members take their oath, which oath must be taken within 7 calendar days after the date of their election”
In the case of the village of Liku where their village member of parliament Hon. Poko Sipeli is also overseas, the Secretary to Justice Darren Tohovaka has been granted the warrant to administer the oath for the village council members.
The village of Vaiea will have to wait for the decision of the Chief Electoral Officer as to when they may start the process for the by-election for their village council.
At the close of nominations last month, there were no nomination forms received for the village of Vaiea.
It’s understood that after the completion of the swearing-in of the 13 Village councils, then the Electoral Office will commence announcing when Vaiea village council by-elections will be.
Whatever happens in this Vaiea situation will be interesting because most of the former village council members are also overseas.
Meanwhile, the Court’s decision on the case of Carol Edwards of Alofi South appealing the decision of the Chief Electoral Officer to decline her nomination was delivered on 20th August.
Justice Coxhead’s decision is that the Court cannot make any decision on this matter given there was no application before the Court.
According to the court minutes “The Chief Electoral Officer declined the nomination on the basis that the consent was made from New Zealand and the candidate was no resident in Niue at the time of nomination, as required by section 2(1) of the Niue Assembly Act 1966”.
Chief Justice Coxhead decision cited that ‘Carol Edwards indicates that she wishes to appeal the matter, but as such, no appeal application or petition has been filed’. The matter is now at an end.