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Tokelau rejects self-rule

Published: 6:40PM Thursday February 16, 2006 Source: RNZ

The people of Tokelau in the South Pacific have voted to remain a New Zealand colony in a binding referendum.

Tokelau is one of the smallest countries in the world, with a population of around 1500.

While around 60% of the votes cast were in favour of breaking away from New Zealand, Tokelau had previously decided a a two-thirds majority was required for change.

Of the 584 votes cast, 349 were in favour of self-government.

New Zealand's Administrator on Tokelau, Neil Walter, says the act of self-determination was always going to be something of a challenge to Tokelau.

He says its people have traditionally taken a very cautious approach to change.

Radio New Zealand International's Sara Vuitalitu was in Tokelau for the referendum and says some people felt unsure of the implications of the vote and the response to the result has been mixed.

Prime Minister Helen Clark says New Zealand will fully respect the result of the referendum.

Clark says New Zealand would have been entirely comfortable if Tokelau had chosen to become self-governing, but the people have spoken. She says Tokelau has made considerable progress towards greater political self reliance in recent years and it is already exercising most of the responsibilities of self-government.