Niue's political scene has been marked by several significant events and activities over the past year. Most notably, Niue Premier Sir Toke Talagi secured a fourth term in government following elections in May 2017, despite coming in third in common roll polls behind former member of Parliament (mp) and Niue High Commissioner to New Zealand O'Love Tauveve Jacobsen and long-serving common roll mp Terry Coe.
The postelection atmosphere quietly echoed the determination of those who were looking for a change in government and working to challenge an administration whose politics were dominated by a generation of [End Page 211] career politicians. Other emerging themes from Sir Toke Talagi's government included reaffirming its position and preferences in regards to its free-association relationship with New Zealand, capacity building and sustainable resource management for the island, an increase in activities related to Niue's international relationships, and questionable amendments to legislation.
In August 2017, the legislative assembly passed a budget deficit of nz$1.1million (nz$100,000 = us$65,227) for the fiscal year 2017–2018 (Takelesi 2017). This shortfall in the annual budget was met with great concern and many questioned the government's management of its finances in relation to its ability to achieve its objectives, projects, and election promises. In January 2014, Niue's Public Service was reduced to a four-day workweek, with public servants continuing to be paid for five full working days. However, this scheme does not apply to some public servants, such as teachers. Public servants had sought pay increases for a long time but were instead met with this scheme, with decreased productivity within the public sector often cited as a contributing factor to the deficit in the government's budget (rnz 2017). This is relatively concerning for a small island nation whose budget is predominantly made up of various sources of revenue from internal fees and tax measures and administrative assistance from New Zealand. Tax increases throughout the 2017–2018 year were also met with mixed reviews, with these increases often cited by critics as being part of a plan to generate more revenue to relieve the budget deficit. An increase in departure tax from nz$34 to nz$80 and increases in fuel prices and prices for tobacco products are examples of this (bcn, 4 July 2017). In his budget statement for the 2018–2019 fiscal year, the premier made a statement on working toward delivering a more "fiscally prudent balanced budget" (Office of the Premier of Niue 2018b). However, economic opportunities in Niue for achieving self-sufficiency and development going forward remain stagnant, and we can therefore anticipate the types of controls, adjustments, and changes that will be implemented to achieve the premier's goals.
In October, celebrations in honor of forty-three years of self-government were commemorated locally with foreign dignitaries in attendance. Here, the premier emphasized the changes that Niue had experienced since 1974, and its wishes to work alongside New Zealand going forward, as opposed to the dominant-subservient or donor-recipient relationship that the two have experienced at times (bcn, 24 Oct 2017). The Niue Constitution Act 1974 states that Niue is to be self-governing, with the New Zealand government assisting in the management of its external affairs and defense (Parliamentary Counsel Office 1988a)—a relationship that should entail peaceful and positive cooperation. Over time, the budget support, aid, and development assistance provided by the New Zealand government has resulted in a dominant-subservient type of relationship, and the premier criticized New Zealand officials for their dominant behavior with respect to Niue's internal affairs. [End Page 212]
In November 2017, the government was faced with its first vote of no confidence since taking office, as submitted by opposition mp Terry Coe (bcn, 7 Nov 2017). The motion was put forward due to dissatisfaction with the government's management of its finances, as well as the premier's notable absence from assembly meetings as a result of lengthy periods of time spent overseas due to ill health. The premier's absence during the assembly meetings in which the motion was submitted and addressed, along with one other...