Fiji Sun

Documents reveal New Zealand-Tokelau rift over helicopter­s

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Comments by Tokelau’s new leader, in March, exposed an unpreceden­ted breakdown of ties between New Zealand and its sole territory. The newlyinaug­urated Ulu, Siopili Perez, used his speech at the opening of Tokelau’s ninth General Fono to ask New Zealand’s administra­tor to Tokelau, David Nicholson: “On what ground has the Taupulega (Council of Elders) done wrong to deserve this interim veto arrangemen­t?”

He was referring to Mr Nicholson’s decision to impose veto powers from his office on any capital spending by Tokelau over US$366,000 (FJD $747,825.14), following the territory’s controvers­ial purchase of two helicopter­s. “Whether this is an interim veto or a re-devolvemen­t of all powers of the administra­tor that were delegated to the Taupulega, I see this as a great step backwards in Tokelau’s constituti­onal developmen­t history,” Mr Perez said. While the Ulu’s strongly worded statement appeared to be largely without context at the time, documents obtained under the Official Informatio­n Act reveal a collapse in New Zealand’s confidence in the territory it has administer­ed since 1926.

Tokelau reportedly spent millions on the helicopter­s, which were part of an interim air service, with the end goal being to establish runways on the atolls to facilitate regular plane flights from Samoa.

Despite these plans, however, a February summary of the purchases prepared by Minstry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) officials said Tokelau’s leadership often made “important budget decisions on the basis of limited informatio­n” and that analysis of recurrent expenditur­e was “rarely provided”.

An update on the situation later that month prepared by an MFAT official found there was no formal approval of the helicopter purchases. “Our view is that this is a significan­t failure of governance on the part of Tokelau both in respect of a lack of judgement, the poor exercise of fiscal controls, and weak government­al processes for decision making,” it said.

 ??  ?? The Ulu of Tokelau, Siopili Perez and his wife, Taase Perez, at their inaugurati­on. Photo: Tokelau government
The Ulu of Tokelau, Siopili Perez and his wife, Taase Perez, at their inaugurati­on. Photo: Tokelau government

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