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The Leader or the Ulu of Tokelau, Foua Toloa, is on a private visit to Australia.
But Mr Toloa has visited Canberra for talks with Australia's Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Affairs, Richard Marles and he attended question time in the Parliament yesterday.
Speaker:Foua Toloa, Premier, Tokelau
TOLOA: The visit and the meeting is just an acknowledgement of the development relationship with the government of Australia, through the various assistance that Australia has given and provided Tokelau over the years. So actually not only the government of Australia has been consistently assisting Tokelau in its contribution to the international inter-generation trust fund, but also has assisted Tokelau in the Pacific judicial development program, and as well has recently Tokelau has been earmarked some funding resources for the Pacific adaptation climate change project. So those were the two specific areas that the government of Australia has been assisting Tokelau.
COUTTS: Well the trust fund that you've got is in excess of more than 31-million dollars, and there are contributions from New Zealand, Australia, Britain and Tokelau itself has put money into the fund. How is that fund used, what's the purpose of it?
TOLOA: Actually currently the legislation stipulated we cannot draw these funds after six years, so after the sixth year, so this year is the fifth year but mainly the contribution from Australia has been since the fund has been established. It has actually been consistent and we've been receiving the Australian contribution every year. It's sitting at 61 million at the moment, but it's regulated by the legislation that has been established. And in fact no withdrawal has been done or the fund has been used. The legislation stipulates that it has to be a consensus of the General Fono for we to begin drawdown given resolution of the General Fono then we can begin utilising those funds under the trust fund.
COUTTS: Well what happens at the end of the sixth year?
TOLOA: At the end of the sixth year you still cannot drawdown unless there will be a resolution of the General Fono to actually utilise the funds, but the actual legislation is at the end of the tenth year that you can automatically draw on the interest. But only at the end of the sixth year if there is any specific or urgent need that Tokelau would require the funds to be used, then it has to be a resolution of the General Fono, that's the Tokelau parliament.
COUTTS: Now you've had a number of referendums on the question of independence in Tokelau in recent years, and they've been voted down, apparently the people of Tokelau don't want independent. Will there be another vote on that issue?
TOLOA: Actually after the failure of the last two referendums, the General Fono decided that we build our infrastructure and our human resource capacity, those are the priorities that we have at the moment before another vote or another step towards self-governing. Now that was the message that we gave, the committee of 24 last week in New York, that the focus is on building our infrastructure and actually our human resource capacity. We have never before organised in terms of what infrastructure development we need and actually also the need for human resource capacity building. We had completed last year our first ever national strategic plan in which that is the focus of our development currently.
COUTTS: But do the people of Tokelau want independence?
TOLOA: Well it's very much alive the issue, I believe it's not independence, the referendum was on self-government. So it's very much alive, we are more autonomous now than before in actually dealing with the issues that we are faced with. But we believe that we need the infrastructure and the human resource capacity for us to actually advance or step further or go further into determining self-government.
COUTTS: Now back to the discussions with parliamentary secretary Richard Marles, you discussed climate change. How much of an impact is it having in Tokelau?
TOLOA: The impact of climate change is a huge issue for us. We're working together with the government of New Zealand and also the international community in addressing this, but regrettably the climate change, our status as a territory doesn't allow us in terms to have a voice in the climate change negotiations. I think that's one area. But very grateful to the government of Australia for the assistance they have given in the Pacific adaptation, the climate change project, because this is the first step or the first resources that we have received from any other partner or any government in terms of actually addressing the impact of climate change on a very small island like Tokelau. I would say the smallest atoll, its environment is very much impacted by climate change, it's very much prominent, the impact is very much prominent in Tokelau.