Tokelau voters reject self-rule

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The people of Tokelau have rejected greater independence from New Zealand in a referendum held this week. 60% of the eligible voters voted "yes" to become an independent state in free association with New Zealand, but this failed to reach the two thirds support required to take effect. The turnout for the referendum was high, reaching almost 95% of registered voters.

Tokelau, a 12 square-kilometre archipelago with a population of 1,500, consists of three islands that do not have roads, an airport or a capital. It is a dependent territory of New Zealand, but New Zealand's Prime Minister said Tokelau is already "exercising virtually all the responsibilities of a self governing country". According to the UN and New Zealand, Tokelau would have relied heavily on New Zealand for financial assistance even if independence had been chosen.