Story: Niueans

More Niueans live in New Zealand than in Niue. Many came in the 1960s, after the atoll was hit by tropical cyclones – New Zealand aid introduced modern conveniences which changed the way people thought about traditional village life.

Story by Carl Walrond
Main image: Niuean language nest, Māngere

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Migration

Niue is known as ‘the rock’ – at 259 sq km and 68 m above sea level it is one of the world’s largest uplifted atolls. It was administered by New Zealand from 1901 to 1974, which gave Niueans New Zealand citizenship and the opportunity to emigrate.

In 1936 there were 54 Niueans living in New Zealand; by 1943 this had risen to about 200. Large numbers came after 1960, when the atoll was battered by tropical cyclones. When Niueans saw the modern luxuries introduced by New Zealand aid workers, hundreds turned their back on village life and emigrated. Travel was made easier when Niue’s airport opened in 1971. More arrived around 1974 when Niue became self-governing – some Niueans were worried they would no longer be able to enjoy residency rights in New Zealand.

Most live in Auckland’s suburbs. There is a large proportion of young people in the Niuean community – in 2013, 39% were under 15.

Niuean culture in New Zealand

Christianity had been introduced to Niueans by missionaries in the 1840s, and religion is still an important part of their life in New Zealand. Over three-quarters of Niueans attend a Christian church.

The Niuean language is kept alive in New Zealand schools, some of which offer Niuean programmes. In the community, native-language speakers are clustered mainly in Auckland and Wellington. However, because English is the predominant language among New Zealand Niueans, many fear that the native language will die out. The Niue Foundation was established in 2001 to lobby for government resources to promote language and culture.

Although a small nation, Niue excels at rugby. Many players are based in New Zealand, including former All Black Frank Bunce. Music is also a national passion, especially reggae, hip hop and rap. Niuean–Māori hip hop artist Che Fu has enjoyed huge success.

How to cite this page:

Carl Walrond, 'Niueans', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/niueans (accessed 15 December 2018)

Story by Carl Walrond, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 25 Mar 2015