21 Jul 2020

NZ Parliament pays tribute to late Niue Premier

10:37 pm on 21 July 2020

Niue's former long-time Premier Sir Toke Talagi has been remembered in New Zealand's parliament this afternoon.

Tributes flowed for the former leader who died last week, and he was remembered as a steadfast friend to New Zealand.

Toke TalagiToke Talagi

Toke Talagi Photo: RNZ/ Sara Vui-Talitu

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expressed New Zealand's gratitude for his contribution to Niue.

Ms Ardern made special mention of Sir Toke overseeing a resurgence of Niuean language and culture.

"Sir Toke will be remembered for his lifelong commitment to safeguarding Niue's future security and prosperity as demonstrated by his steadfast championing of sustainable economic development, education and the protection of Niue's taonga."

Ms Ardern, affectionately referred to as a 'daughter of Niue' because of her father spending terms there as New Zealand High Commissioner and police commissioner, conveyed New Zealand's "deep sympathy" to Sir Toke's family and the people of Niue.

"In 2017 he was appointed a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in recognition of his many years of service to Niue, and to the realm," she said.

"Sir Toke will be laid to rest on Monday 27 July and our thoughts are with Lady Talagi, the extended Talagi family, the people of his village of Alofi and with all Niueans wherever they may be."

Winston Peters (centre) and Jacinda Ardern (right) in Niue.

Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters in Niue in 2018 Photo: Twitter/ Winston Peters

The Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters fondly recalled his sometimes testing relationship with Sir Toke.

Speaking as Foreign Minister, Mr Peters told the house that over his 12 years as premier from 2008-2020 Sir Toke "made a serious contribution to Niue's progress including by serving as Niue's foreign minister" and referenced the deep respect he was held in throughout the Pacific and beyond.

"On a personal level, he was not the easiest man to deal with," Mr Peters said.

The foreign minister spoke of a previous "contretemps" the two men had managed to amicably work through.

"That's an admirable thing," he added, saying Sir Toke always put the people of Niue first.

"He'll be someone we remember with mixed but enduring affection."

The Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson's memories included Sir Toke's student activism against both nuclear testing in the Pacific and racial discrimination.

"I also noted with interest that he campaigned and advocated strong and hard for more sustainable use of renewable energy," she said.

"People of his beloved Niue and his beloved Alofi talked about him always being creative. That he always wanted to find creative ways to fiercely protect Niue and Niueans' mana motuhake, as we like to say, their sovereignty and independence."

National's Alfred Ngaro spoke of his passion for his country's language, vagahau Niue, and said the "son of the Pacific" was a fierce champion for his country.

"I can remember, Mr Speaker, on many occasions on these Pacific missions where he would welcome us warmly, and then at the same time too he would give us a sharp rebuke about the things we could do more for Niue."

He spoke of Sir Toke's drive for education of young Niueans and nurturing future leaders.

"Now that your light has gone from this earth, may your light continue to shine in the stars above your beloved Niue as a beacon of hope, of inspiration to all people in Niue and around the world."

Alfred Ngaro

Alfred Ngaro Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas