Core Green issues of transport, energy and Pacific climate change were raised in a meeting with our MPs Keith Locke and Kennedy Graham.
A delegation from Tokelau – that included the three high chiefs of Tokelau – Faipule Foua Toloa (Ulu o Tokelau/leader of Tokelau) , Faipule Kuresa Nasau, Faipule Pio Tetimuatoga Tuia Iosefo and officials – met with the two MPs at our Parliamentary office.
The high chiefs – who also met with the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee, Government officials and members of other political parties – want New Zealand to speed up the funding and purchase of a new ferry to link Tokelau’s three atolls and the Samoan capital, Apia.
Sea voyaging is the main form of transport between Tokelau’s three atolls, as none have an airstrip.
Attention has been focused on safety concerns after the tragedy with Tonga’s Princess Ashika ferry.
The MV Tokelau has a fortnightly shipping service from Apia, Samoa. The ship visits each of the three atolls in a round trip lasting about five days. A 2005 shipping review recommended a larger, faster ship with greater cargo and passenger capacity.
“It’s their lifeline,” says Keith, the Green Party’s Foreign Affairs Spokesperson. “The atolls are only reachable by boat and the only ferry available at the moment is not up to scratch.
“Safety is paramount and they also need a ferry that is faster, more reliable and can cope with more passengers and freight.
“A proposal is already on the table but needs to be hurried up as the future of Tokelau depends upon it.”
Climate change is now
The Tokelauans also outlined their vulnerability to climate change problems, remarking on the low-lying nature of the atolls and the increased ferocity of hurricanes.
They also discussed plans of switching to two forms of alternative energy – solar power for electricity and coconut oil as biofuels to power generators and vehicles – to lessen dependence on imported diesel.
“It makes the sense for them to rid the islands of fossil fuels in favour of renewable energy,” Keith says.
Keith and Kennedy support the Tokelauans’ call for assistance with a new ferry and acknowledges their efforts to become self sufficient with energy through the use of renewable sources.
“Small islands such as Tokelau are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change,” Dr Graham, Green Party Associate Spokesperson on International Climate Change, says.
“While small island states contribute the least to global greenhouse gas emissions, they are at the sharp edge of climate change problems. What’s also interesting in this case is that Tokelau is part of New Zealand.”
In the NZ realm
Tokelau is a non-self governing territory of New Zealand. While Tokelau is a part of New Zealand, it has a distinctive culture and its own political, legal, social, judicial and economic systems. Tokelauans are New Zealand citizens and use NZ banknotes and coins.
Legacy of terror
Tokelauan society lives with the legacy of slavery. In the 1860s, Peruvian slave ships visited the three atolls and forcibly removed almost all able-bodied men (253) to work as labourers. Most of the men died of dysentery and smallpox, and very few ever returned to Tokelau.
Taking action on Pacific Climate Change
The situation in Tokelau and other Pacific islands such as Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Carteret Islands was addressed when MP Metiria Turei and Green Party Pacific Issues Spokesperson Reverend Mua Strickson-Pua spoke on Pacific Climate Change at a recent meeting with Pasifika Greens, Greenpeace, Oxfam and 350 campaign representatives at AUT University.
AUT Pasifika students turned up in force to support the meeting and their Polynesian cousins threatened by climate change in our Pacific backyard. Many asked advice on how to pressure the Government to take leadership on this regional crisis.