2 Sep 2005

Tokelau to hold referendum on self government before end of year

10:17 am on 2 September 2005

New Zealand's administrator for Tokelau says there is no way to know the outcome on the territory's referendum on self government in free association with New Zealand.

But Neil Walter says in the past several years, the atolls have taken an increasing level of responsibility for their own affairs, and New Zealand a less prominent role.

The General Fono, the territory's main political body, has reached agreement on a draft treaty which now needs to be endorsed by the New Zealand Cabinet.

The draft includes a referendum in which all Tokelauans 18 and over, who normally reside in the atolls, will be asked whether or not they want self government in free association.

Neil Walter says such a decision would need two thirds backing.

"That's setting it relatively high, but then it's an important decision. Not so much for reasons that it changes the current situation but more for what it represents, I guess, in Tokelau taking on formally this greater measure of responsibility and accountability."