Sir Toke Talagi has dismissed recent criticism of his government as ‘just noise’ from ‘the Dark Side’.
On his weekly broadcast on the national radio on Wednesday morning Premier Talagi spent some time in addressing the damning letter from Audit NZ to the Speaker of the Niue Assembly. The letter lists a raft of issues identified by the auditors which it says the Niue Government has failed to rectify. A fairly detailed report is available from RNZI Pacific: nz-warns-niue-over-revenue-shortfalls-budget-blowouts
Premier Sir Toke told his island-wide listeners that the claim that the exclusion of New Zealand from the formal part of the island’s 44th Constitution celebrations was in retaliation for Audit NZ’s critical letter was nonsense.
‘We’re not going to raise NZ’s flag, we’re not going to sing the NZ anthem. Does that mean to say that we have drifted away from NZ? No, it doesn’t. It has absolutely nothing to do with anything other than the fact that we have said to them that we are at a point where we should not necessarily follow tradition, which are inappropriate in this day and age. I’m happy and I think they’ve accepted it.’ He went to say that he had alerted the NZ authorities some two years ago of his intention to drop NZ from the formal part of Niue’s Constitution Celebrations.’
‘The idea that NZ and Niue have fallen apart because of the audit report –the dated audit report is nonsense. Our relationship with NZ can’t be any stronger than what it has been for a long long time.’
Premier Talagi said that NZ has been very supportive of the development of tourism as well as other effort to create employment opportunities. He claims that the population has stabilised with people staying on the island without having NZ in their sights.
Referring specifically to criticism from the auditors, Premier Talagi was scathing in his comments. He said that the Auditors cost the Niue Government $300,000 per annum making a total payment of $1.2m in the past 4 years and have nothing to show for it. The Premier’s solution is to hire other auditors to review the work of the government auditors.
Meantime support is growing for the whole island to decide on whether NZ should take part in the celebrations. Supporters of that idea say that it is not up to the Premier to make the decision on his own in what has become a tradition for the island. There has been no reaction from NZ thus far.