By Boris Jancic
Niue's economic turnaround story is almost unparalleled, New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully has said as he announced the Government would put an extra $7.5 million into the island nation's main resort.
Speaking after closed-door discussions, Premier Toke Talagi said with Niue's population stabilised, two flights coming into the country each week and the tourism sector booming, how to maintain sustainable growth had become more of a concern.
"We are looking to balance the impact of a lot of people coming here," he said.
While Premier Talagi talked of the responsibility New Zealand owed to Niue - having pulled it into World War I - at Tuesday's centenary, when it comes to the present his eye is on self-sufficiency.
And while that goal is ambitious, there are signs it's working.
The tourism industry income has grown about 90 percent since he took office and visitor numbers were at 8000 last year, compared to around 4000 in 2010.
The long-term plan is about 20,000, the Premier said.
Breaking ground on a $7.5 million project at the Scenic Matavai Resort, Mr McCully said it would be a "huge step" towards self-sustainability in Niue.
The new expansion will give the nation's major resort an additional 20 rooms and a conference centre and is expected to accommodate an extra 2000 visitors each year with gains of about $1 million for the country.
He said he was optimistic for a more economically viable future for the country.
"If you go back to 2008, the pattern was population decline and no growth in the economy. Even the one Air New Zealand flight a week was looking pretty average," he said.
"It's a turnaround story, that I don't know of any parallel to match."
Although in June the Government announced additional funding for Pacific nations, Niue's total aid budget has actually slowly been decreasing since 2010.