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Asia Dive News : Earth's last paradise to be newest nation

Tokelau, a group of microdot coral islets in the middle of the South Pacific that calls itself the last paradise on earth, is poised to cast off historic, colonial shackles and become the world's newest country.

Set halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii, with no airport, a 28-hour boat trip away from its nearest neighbour and most of its people living overseas, it is the ultimate away-from-it-all mini-state.

Tokelau's three main coral atolls cover only 12.2 sq km of land spread over 160 km of ocean. None of the 128 islets set in their reef-fringed lagoons is wider than 200 metres or more than five metres above sea level.

There are only a handful of vehicles and the population of about 1,600 is outnumbered by the 8,000 or so Tokelauans who live in New Zealand, Australia and Samoa, 500 km to the south.

Discovered 260 years ago by a British navy ship looking for mutineers from Captain William Bligh's HMS Bounty, Tokelau is a former British colony that handed over its administration to New Zealand in 1926.

It is now in the final stages of completing a long transition to self-government in free association with New Zealand, an act that will see Tokelau removed from the United Nations (UN) list of 16 Non-Self Governing Territories next year.

Tokelau is the only dependent territory on the list anywhere near achieving self-government and the UN special committee on the issue has praised New Zealand's "exemplary cooperation" and dubbed it a "case study with wider significance for the UN as it seeks to complete its work in decolonisation".

Pio Tuia, the head of Tokelau's ruling council, put the situation in traditional Pacific poetry when he addressed the committee in New York in June: "Behold the seas are shimmering with the dawning of the new day. The big fish is about to surface. The journey's end is near." 

Source: Hindustan Times