Niue is a self-governing nation in free association with New Zealand, located partway between Tonga, Samoa and the Cook islands. Niue’s economy is heavily dependent on support from New Zealand and aid accounts for 70 percent of Niue’s GDP. Niue has a population of approximately 1,624 people, making it the world’s least populated state.
Niue is the world’s largest and highest single raised coral atoll, located in the central southwest Pacific, 2,400 km north of New Zealand. The total land surface of the atoll is 259 km2 and the island reaches a maximum height of 68m above sea level. The surrounding ocean reaches depths of up to 4,000m. The island consists of limestone of approximately 500m depth. Soil conditions are relatively poor, limiting agriculture; however, small-scale agriculture does exist.
The majority of the population is located near the capital Alofi, on the west side of the island. Population growth has been negative for the past decades, from a recorded maximum of 5,194 in 1966. Most of the decline in population is due to residents leaving for New Zealand where economic opportunities are greater. Niueans have had citizenship rights in New Zealand since 1974, when the countries entered into their free association agreement.
Niue is vulnerable to climate risks such as tropical cyclones (TCs) and droughts, geological risks such as earthquakes and tsunamis and human-caused risks such as disease outbreaks and contamination of the water supply. As the world’s largest elevated coral atoll, its rocky and rugged coastline has steep cliffs which offer marginal protection from risks such as tsunamis. However, as experienced in 2004 with the category five Tropical Cyclone Heta, TC-induced waves have the capacity to overtop the steep cliffs and wash boulders inland up to 25m above sea level. Niue’s isolation, small population, reliance on donor aid, limited water resources and marginal agricultural potential also contribute to its overall risk profile.