15 Sep 2009

Tokelau still waiting for New Zealand to decide if it will provide a dedicated ship

3:26 pm on 15 September 2009

There is still no timetable for Tokelau to get the new shipping service it has been requesting for years.

The Ulu, or leader of Tokelau, Foua Toloa, says the New Zealand Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister have given him assurances they are looking at a specially built ship to be able to cope with local sea conditions and the dual cargo/passenger role.

But there has still been no final decision.

Towards the end of last month, a spokesperson for Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, said he wanted to ensure that all options were explored and the interests of both the people of Tokelau and the taxpayer were kept in mind.

But Foua Toloa says the huge issue that comes up time and time again in his consultations with community groups here is the ship:

"This is has been on the top agenda; What are you doing about the ship? What has been the response of New Zealand? There are fourth generation children here that have never been back to the island. It's the hope of their parents and grandparents to take them back home. It's a survival of a language, the survival of an identity, it's the survival of a culture and you cannot undermine how important the shipping service is."

Foua Toloa says negotiations are continuing, but the failure to finalise the decision means further delays .