Guiding Principles on Niue’s sovereign right over her biological diversity:
- Good governance and leadership
- Collective responsibility
- Stakeholder participation
- Traditional knowledge, practises and innovations
- In situ and ex situ conservation
- Public awareness and capacity-building
- Respect for biodiversity
- Protection of Niue’s heritage sites
Tāoga Niue aims to assist in the preservation of the natural environment and biological diversity of Niue so it may continue to support the future generations. The nation consists of a single island of 259 sq. km. Niue is an uplifted coral limestone plateau perched on top of a submerged volcano. The island still has extensive forest cover of 65% to 70%.
The species of animals and plants found in Niue are largely determined by three factors: Firstly, Niue is isolated from other land masses in the Pacific Rim so a limited range of species reached the island. Secondly, it is relatively young. Indications are that the upper terrace dates back to the inter-glaciations before the last 5,000,000-9,000,000 years (Schofield 1959), so that animals and plants arriving here have generally had time to evolve into different species. Thirdly, it is relatively small, and provides a restricted range of habitat with no fresh water runoff (river), although there are freshwater caves.
All these factors have service to limit the number of plant and bird species. The inhabitants of Niue traditionally used its biodiversity to a great extent, for agriculture, hunting and food gathering. Traditional knowledge was widely used in the process. Niue people have always had strong cultural ties to the land. They apply a number of traditional conservation practises to its use, particularly the closing areas or restricting activities within them through the imposition of fono, a temporary control or tapu, a longer term taboo involving sacred beliefs, strongly observed for its spiritual power. The people have a remarkable ability to read biological indicators, such as the flowering of a certain plant that indicates that the season for a particular fish has arrived. Another example is the use of the moon cycle to time the planting of certain crops.
There have been perceptions among Niuean communities that the traditional forms of conservation have addressed the island’s environment concerns. In reality, this is not the case, as increasing outside influences and economic pressures have led to an increasing over-exploitation of resources. Niue’s concern at not having the proper mechanisms in place to assist in conserving and protecting its biological diversity led to the development of its National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan (BSAP).
Niue’s biodiversity is a lifeline for the people living here today and for future generations. Niue people have used biodiversity as a source of sustenance and clothing, and to provide shelter for its people. What the general population has not realised are the interlinkages between biodiversity and the basic needs of the people, living as one, within the confines of a very hostile environment. The coastal area is vital in protecting the reef area around the island and so the forest provides a refuge for Niue’s wildlife. The soil structure also plays an important part in the filtration of the ground water resource for the island. The people who inhabit this rugged island should learn to live in harmony with its wildlife and the forest, and recognise the importance that biodiversity has on life.
Niue has to realise the importance of biodiversity in its striving to survive and to hold on to its tāoga.