NIUE TO EXPLOIT RESOURCES SAYS REVEREND AS NEW ZEALAND REDUCES FUNDING

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ALOFI, Niue (April 29, 1999 – PACNEWS)---Reverend Lagi Sepeli, a senior member of the Niuean community in New Zealand, says the small Pacific nation must exploit its own resources or accept reverting back to New Zealand.

Wellington wants to cut the aid program by $5NZD million ($US 2.7 million) by 2003.

Of the 20,000 Niueans, 18,000 currently reside in New Zealand.

In Wellington, Niuean community leader, Reverend Lagi Sepeli said Niue should seriously consider exploiting its own resources.

"I think the answer lies with the government. It should really come up with a program to utilize the natural resources of Niue and be able to sell it outside. I think if Niue comes to the worst situation, the only option is to integrate with New Zealand," Rev. Sepeli said.

New Zealand has been reducing its aid by a quarter of a million dollars every year for the last five years.

Premier Lakatani is in Manila this week to seek support from the Asian Development Bank (ADB). A Government official said Niue hopes to receive low interest loan from the ADB, if New Zealand phase out its aid by 2003.

PENSION RISE FOR NIUEANS PUT PRESSURE ON ECONOMY

ALOFI, Niue (April 29, 1999 – Radio Australia)---The new government of Niue has awarded pensioners a 20 percent increase in benefits.

Now, those over the age of 60 and with special disabilities will receive about $80 every two weeks.

However, the editor of the Niue Economic Review, Stafford Guest, says the increase will put more pressure on Niue's economy, especially in the light of New Zealand aid cuts,

"They certainly rely on some money that comes from New Zealand for meeting pension payments."

"However, it's one of those things that will have to stand alone as Niue becomes less reliant on major aid donors and it could be a bit of a problem in future years. There's quite a bit of money that goes into this system."

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