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Tokelau stays as NZ's last colony

Published: 7:35PM Thursday October 25, 2007 Source: ONE News

Tokelau has voted to stay as New Zealand's last colony.

A two thirds majority was needed for the tiny island group to gain independence but the "yes" vote fell 16 short.

"Tokelau is not ready yet for self government. There are a lot of things to prepare for," says Teaku Petaia, a New Zealand Tokelauan.

The United Nations felt otherwise and has been pushing the New Zealand colony to go it alone.

But their two referendums have failed. The people have spoken. One Tokelauan says the country needs more need nurses, school teachers and doctors and is not ready for independence.

Tokelauans living in New Zealand have been the driving force, persuading family in the homeland to vote against self government.

Many felt the isolated nation with a small skill base would be ripe for exploitation.

"They need a lot of training even the leaders. I don't trust them," says Koena Elia, a New Zealand Tokelauan.

But others are bitterly disappointed.

Community leader Mika Perez says the decision is catastrophic. He says he is very disappointed for Tokelau leaders in Tokelau and also people like him in New Zealand.

"I feel they need to move forward."

Indications were Tokelauans would vote for self government after learning they would not lose their New Zealand citizenship or the $11 million a year they get in aid.

But those assurances were not enough.

The issue will not be going away as everyone agrees change is inevitable.