As is customary with the completion of the construction of a new building structure in Niue, there is a blessing before the occupiers of the structure can move in.
This was the case with the new parliament building Fale Fono 2 on Friday last week, where the Premier Hon. Dalton Tagelagi and Speaker of the Fono Ekepule Hon. Hima Takelesi invited a small group to what has been dubbed a ‘soft opening’ of the new parliament.
Present at the event were the workers, contractors of the building, and the landowners joining the dignitaries the members of the Niue Legislative Assembly, High Commissioners of New Zealand and Australia, and the public servants who will be moving in this week.
Premier Dalton Tagelagi said that the official opening will likely take place in April when dignitaries from Wellington will be part of the opening of Fale Fono 2 but for now, this is a blessing before the staff can move into the building.
Premier Tagelagi acknowledged the New Zealand government as the main donor contributing $5 million to this project and paying tribute to the late Sir Toke Talagi for his vision to build this new parliament building. He paid tribute to his former Cabinet colleagues for their support of the late Premier Sir Toke Talagi’s vision.
“I hope that our people understood and be thankful for what we have. To thank New Zealand, Australia, and all other partners that funded and supported this project.
And I look at this Fale Fono and tribute it to the late Sir Toke as part of his vision, seeing the need for a new building because the old building had deteriorated”.
New Zealand’s High Commissioner to Niue H.E Helen Tunnah in her speech said how exciting it is for her team to see the project delivered.
“I’m mindful always that while it is a Fale Fono it is for the people of Niue and I’m very pleased as well and commend the Speaker and the Premier for opening this House this afternoon to allow the people of Niue to come through to have a look.
“So, the delivery of this project of $5 million dollars is really symbolic and it is a significant commitment from Aotearoa NZ to Niue and to Niue’s resilience and Niues investment in good governance”, said H.E Tunnah.
Also, there was the High Commissioner of Australia H.E Louise Ellerton who acknowledged the historical and enduring relationship between Niue and New Zealand.
“The completion of this beautiful building is the embodiment of the strong partnership between the governments of Niue and NZ. This project is another demonstration of your enduring relationship and shared history” said H.E Louise Ellerton
Because this is not the official opening of the parliament building, the Premier explained that this soft opening will be via the side doors into the building. The honour of opening the doors to the Fale Fono 2 was given to former Minister Billy Talagi.
Those who walked through marveled at the grandeur of the interior of the three-story building. On the first level are the Chambers of the Fono Ekepule. On the second floor are the offices of government departments including the Office of the Speaker and the Legislative staff and on the top floor are the Offices of Premier and Cabinet and their staff.
BCN news asked the Speaker on the comments and about the building, some critical of the lack of traditional Niuean look to the structure itself but Speaker Hima Takelesi says that sometimes the focus on the outside distracts from the significance of what is actually being done inside.
“That’s true, there has been various opinions expressed on the design of the building, but I think sometimes the actual appearance of the building doesn’t do justice to what might go on inside and also the fact that it’s how we furnish the building, the things that we do inside the building, the décor.
“It’s not so much the outside I guess, it’s up to us now to make the building feel like a Niuean building by the décor that we bring in, there’s a few things that we can do to reflect our location as a small island in the South Pacific,” said Speaker Hima Takelesi.
Premier Tagelagi told BCN news that Cabinet will likely move into their new offices next week.
The Fono Ekepule will continue at the original Fale Fono for a while yet according to Speaker Takelesi, “The Fono Ekepule might take a little while yet before the Fono Ekepule can sit in the new Chambers” due to the electronics fittings for the new chambers affected by chain supply issues with Covid 19.