FROM THE NIUE ASSEMBLY Wednesday 12 February
The island’s elected representatives were summoned to the first sitting of the Assembly on Wednesday morning this week but with two members absent overseas – Hon Tauveve Jacobsen and Hon Va’aiga Tukuitoga.
The Order Paper for this sitting was somewhat light consisting only of questions and a review of the Standing Orders – that document that governs the manner in which the Niue Assembly is to conduct its business.
The Road from China – In answer to a question from Common roll member Terry Coe, Premier Sir Toke Talagi advised the House that with the embargo of travellers from mainland China as a result of Covid 19, the Chinese funded road project is on hold until further notice. The same question was posed by CR member Stan Kalauni but he also wanted to know if there were any containers from China arriving soon. No such container said the minister.
While the re-sealing project has been postponed, Premier Talagi said that the road mending by the local workers will continue with work to Liku and Lakepa as well as from Vaipapahi to Mutalau.
Appointment of Finsec – Assemblyman Coe asked the Premier if a new Financial Secretary had been appointed. Premier Talagi said that no appointment has been made but that the Niue Public Service Commission is expected to make a decision soon.
Premier, go home – At this stage of the proceedings it became obvious to those listening on the national radio that Premier Sir Toke was taking longer than usual to respond to the questions. His speech was slower; his pronunciation was a little difficult to understand. He lacked his usual assertiveness. And so when Terry Coe asked as to when the government was going to enforce an increase in pay for the private sector in line with the increase for public servants, Premier Talagi was taken aback. When he was finally able to answer, he said that he doesn’t know anything about any pay increase for the private sector. Assemblyman Coe was heard to say “Cost of Living”. At this point the Speaker intervened to say that the Assembly has no mandate to discuss the pay of the private sector. That intervention drew a sharp retort from Coe who said “If the Premier is unable to answer the questions, he should go home”.
Covid 19 – Corona virus alert – On a question from Common Roll member Crossley Tatui, the Minister for Health Billy Talagi gave a summary of the government’s procedures and processes to contain the spread of the virus. For the time being the government has stopped all travels to and from mainland China. Travel has also been restricted to those countries with confirmed cases of Covid 19. In addition to these measures, the island’s health authorities are maintaining close contact with WHO and with health officials in New Zealand. Minister Talagi told the Assembly that Niue’s containment procedures has the advantage that there is only one gateway to Niue and that is via Auckland. Meantime precautions against measles is continuing.
NCEA and Niue High School – Following a question from Assemblyman Crossley Tatui, the Minister of Education Billy Talagi gave a summary of the achievements for Niue High School for NCEA for 2019. For Level One (year 11) 59% – NZ 64%. For Level two (year 12) 73% – NZ 76%. For Level three (year 13) 78% – NZ 65%. University Entrance 58% – NZ 46.8%.
GENERAL ELECTIONS 2020 and NZ Ministerial Visit
Premier Sir Toke Talagi has announced that the polling date is Saturday 30 May. He did not say whether he will be seeking another term or not. The national broadcaster had announced towards the end of last year that the Premier was intending to stand again. Premier Talagi had indeed made reference to that effect at the launching of his autobiography; most pundit say at that time that it was no more than a throw-away remark.
Premier announced also that the traditional annual visit to the region by New Zealand parliamentarians will take place on 23 March. NZ Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon Winston Peters will lead a delegation of four ministers and other members of parliament.