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ALOFI, Niue (Niue News, Oct. 4) – Several Niue lawmakers say they are disappointed that the Parliament hasn’t reviewed a proposed agreement that Premier Young Vivian plans to sign with New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark later this month.

Members of parliament Terry Coe and O'Love Jacobsen said it was difficult to understand why such an important matter had not been fully discussed before last weekend's two-day stopover by associate foreign minister Marian Hobbs and economic development minister Jim Anderton.

"We are rushing through things without giving these important issues any thought at all," said Ms Jacobsen.

Mr Coe agreed, adding: "On the positive side of things, it was good to learn that there are no planned changes to our Constitution."

Political commentators on Niue said New Zealand is obviously the driving force behind the agreement, which is drawing the island state closer to Wellington.

It is predicted that direct access to regional economic assistance packages for tourism, communications technology, fishing and agriculture will tie the knot tighter than it has ever been in Niue's 30 years of self government.

New Zealand has contributed almost $260 million (US$175.2 million) to Niue in the past 30 years, which has kept the island legislature and administration afloat but has resulted in no positive development making the country less reliant on foreign assistance.

There has been no talk in the latest rounds of discussions of neither electoral reform nor reducing the 20 member legislative assembly, which makes the island the most democratic state in the world with one member of parliament representing 40 voters.

Upon return to Wellington a confident Mr Anderton said his Ministry could help Niue achieve economic independence.

Mr Anderton says while the devastation caused by last January’s Cyclone Heta will take years to overcome, it provides an opportunity for a new start for Niue.

He says he was impressed with the projects in fishing and agriculture set up by Auckland firm Reef Shipping, and the enthusiasm of local business operators given the trauma they had gone through.

He targeted land utilization and better access to funding for private sector development as areas for attention.

He says there has never been a long-term economic plan for Niue, but they now have a platform to help establish strategic economic independence.

The proposed agreement has yet to be confirmed by the New Zealand Cabinet or Niue leaders.

October 5, 2004

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