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Images: Vote For Tokelau's Independence Begins

Vote For Tokelau's Independence Begins

By Selwyn Manning – reporting from Tokelau's Fakaofo Atoll

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The tiny Pacific island nation of Tokelau

The people of Tokelau, one of the Pacific's most remote atoll groups, are to decide whether to become an independent nation in free association with New Zealand.

Tokelau is currently a colony of New Zealand and its people have full New Zealand citizenship.

Voting began at Apia, Samoa on Sunday (New Zealand time). New Zealand and United Nations officials are in attendance and will accompany the ballot boxes over the next three days to each of three atolls in the Tokelau group.

The largest atoll is Nukunonu at 4.7 sq. km. Fakaofo and Atafu are 4 sq. km and 3.5 sq. km respectively. The total population of Tokelau is approximately 1500.

Tokelau is tucked neatly below the equator and is surrounded by the deepest blue sea that the Pacific can muster. Think exotic, think tropical, coral reefs and palm trees growing above the highest land point of 3.5 meters.

Tokelau is so remote, few people venture this far north of Samoa. We got here on board the ferry Lady Naomi and once near Tokelau's coral reef were shuttled onto Fakaofo by aluminium dingy.

At one end of the atoll live Fakaofo's people. At the other are pigs, which are unique for having developed diving skills and live off reef fish that abound in these waters.

Back in Samoa while the first votes were being made, Tokelau's Ulu (titular head of Tokelau) Faipule Kuresa Nasau said he expected a near 100 percent turn out for the referendum with a Yes vote of around 85 to 90 percent.

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Voting at Apia, Samoa

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Voting booth at Apia, Samoa

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Ulu of Tokelau (titular head of Tokelau - Faipule Kurea Nasau

Here the people are focused on the referendum, the UN officials are here to observe the vote, and New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affair's David Payton, officially titled The Administrator of Toekelau, is here to assure the people that New Zealand will not abandon them should the vote be in favour of the proposal:

"That Tokelau become a self-governing state in free association with New Zealand on the basis of the Constitution and the Treaty."

( To be continued…)

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