Here’s the sad truth about Niue: there are more dead people here than living residents of the island. Like we said, Air New Zealand runs a weekly flight out to Niue year round and it wouldn’t surprise me if they made that flight at a loss. So this is good right? Niue is connected to the world! Not exactly as all around good as you might think. You see, the advent of regular air travel decimated the Niuean population and not through disease but by mass exodus. Remember how we said there were more Niueans living in Auckland than on Niue and that all Niueans have dual citizenship? Well, most young people want the quality education and job opportunities that Niue’s sponsor country of New Zealand provides and really, can you blame them? Since there is now a weekly flight out, a lot of people leave and only return to visit families on holidays or just to occasionally check up on the family house. Speaking of homes, the majority of residences in the villages & businesses are abandoned or at least not lived in and squatting tourists are a big problem for the local law enforcement.
For some other Polynesian countries, like the Cooks and The Society Islands, air travel may take some of their youth but it also gives back in the form of tourism. This has not happened on Niue and the island remains mostly unvisited.
This in turn has stunted their economic growth which has led to less money in the country, which leads to existing businesses closing and no new businesses opening, which leads to even less opportunities for the young, which leads to even more of them leaving and creating lives somewhere else… you can see where this is going. From our experiences in the rest of the south Pacific we knew that tourism was a “cornerstone” of several island-nation economies, but here in Niue we see how very dramatic the absence of that income stream can be for a country. The Niuean way of life in the homeland is slowly dwindling away and while we won’t say it’s completely due to a lack of tourism and it certainly is a major contributing factor.
This is a darn shame because Niue is easily one of the most beautiful and diverse islands we’ve seen in the South Pacific so far. If you are into nature in any way, shape or form then this island is basically where you should go in Polynesia.
For more on the effect of the modern world on Polynesian island cultures click on “We’ve Reached Civilization Indeed”
About the authors
Greg and Tiffany are travelling around the world on sailing yachts and keep a video blog of their (mis)adventures. If sailing to Tahiti on a 44 ft sailboat, getting pooped on by seagulls, opening coconuts with dull machetes, sailing past tornadoes and ukulele Christmas carols are for you, then check them out at www.CoastGuardCouple.com!