14 Oct 2005

NZ-based Tokelauans upset at exclusion from referendum

3:18 pm on 14 October 2005

There is anger within the 7,000-strong Tokelauan community in New Zealand at being excluded from a referendum on the atolls' future relationship with New Zealand.

Tokelau is soon to vote on whether to become independent in free association with New Zealand, but the vote is restricted to the thousand or so Tokelauans who are 18 and over and living on the atolls.

Tokelauan New Zealand community leader, Mika Perez, says they are not opposed to the referendum, but want it delayed and extended to include New Zealand-based Tokelauans.

He says Tokelauans here retain very close cultural links with the atolls and have a right to vote on such a vital matter.

"The first time ever, ever such a referendum for the political structure has ever been put up in Tokelau history. So therefore, whether you are in Tokelau or in New Zealand we feel we do have a right to show that we support or do not support the referendum.'"