Pacific News: Niue Prepares for Influx of Visitors

Published: Mon 7 Jul 2008 07:31 AM
Niue Prepares for Influx of Visitors
By Jeremy Rose
Captain James Cook named Niue, Savage Island, after a less than welcoming reception saw him unable to set foot on the world's largest coral atoll in 1774.
Niueans later explained to missionaries that they were fearful the explorer would bring sickness to the island. Possibly one of the Pacific's earliest examples of a successful, if temporary, public health intervention.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

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With up to 500 visitors expected to descend on Niue for next month's Pacific Islands Forum, the country's health professionals are bracing themselves once again for the possible negative impacts of outside visitors.
Niue's Director of Health Dr Sitaleki Finau says the influx of hundreds of people from throughout the Pacific to a country with just 1200 permanent residents poses potential public health risks.
He says the main concern is that visitors could introduce dengue fever, STDs, HIV or the flu. The island is home to the mosquito that spreads the dengue virus but to date has been free of the virus itself.
Dr Finau says despite there being no known sex workers on the island the spread of STDs is a potential concern as well. "But I think we have things in place so we won't be taken by surprise."
He says preparations are also being made for a large increase in the quantities of rubbish being produced and precautions taken to avoid any outbreaks of food poisoning.
Niue Police chief Ross Adern say he's bringing in an extra 50 police from New Zealand to help provide security during the event.
"We have to be prepared for whatever contingency that might occur. We hope for the best but need to plan for the worst."
The "worst" he is referring to is a terrorist attack. An event he describes as extremely remote but one that needs to be taken seriously nevertheless.
He says both Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd and New Zealand's Helen Clark will be bringing their own securiity.
Adern says he isn't expecting any increase in local crime due to the temporary growth in population. "The Niuean people have embraced the fact that we're going to have a whole lot of different people visiting."
Meanwhile, work has begun on sprucing up Alofi for the upcoming forum with new picnic tables being installed and fresh coats of paint being applied to public buildings.
Jeremy Rose's visit to Niue was sponsored by the Pacific Co-operation Foundation.
Copyright Jeremy Rose. Email:

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