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ALOFI, Niue (November 15, 2001 - Niue Economic Review/PINA Nius Online)---Niue Premier Sani Lakatani believes some people misinterpreted his message at a state feast last month that marked the country’s centenary of links with New Zealand.

Lakatani's comment that "Niue is going to go ahead with or without New Zealand’s help" caused consternation in some quarters of his 300-strong audience.

Noting that many people did not applaud the comment, senior Niue Opposition figure Veve Jacobsen said: "The premier insults the hand that feeds us."

Back in Auckland after meetings in Brussels and the Netherlands, Mr. Lakatani told Pasifika Times: "Young people liked the speech but some politicians said you should not run New Zealand down.

"That was not the thought behind my comments. I think we have to stand on our own. If New Zealand comes to help us, that is good.

"But we should not have to rely on New Zealand to help us out all the time.

"Some people may have gotten the wrong impression. I was not running New Zealand down.

"I thanked New Zealand but it is about time for us to stand up and do something for ourselves."

Mr Lakatani said he was aware the Niuean people were "frightened" of the citizenship issue (Niueans are New Zealand citizens and most live in New Zealand). But Mr Lakatani said that and sovereignty rights were two different things.

He said New Zealand benefited from the investments it made in Niue.

Ninety-nine percent of Niue’s budget returned to New Zealand in some form or other, he said.

Mr Lakatani said he was creating jobs on Niue to give Niueans living overseas incentives to return to their homeland. While in Brussels, he said, he told officials he wanted to set up a database in Auckland to survey the 18,000 Niueans in New Zealand to ascertain their skills and views about returning to the island.

For additional reports from the Niue Economic Review, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Magazines/Journals/Niue Economic Review.

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