Niue heritage assets consists of the Archives, Museum, National Library and Genealogy.The Archives and Museum are highlighted under a separate cover as the two foundations responsible for the conservation and preservation of Niue heritage assets. The National Library is yet to be fully established although a collection was held in the non-existent Public Library, before the intervention of Cyclone Heta in 2004. Part of the collection is now being held at the Fale Tāoga Niue with current efforts to build up the resources to support the work of Tāoga Niue. The work is also specified under the National Library strategy and one of those strategies is to compile and collect research written about Niue and or by authors of Niue descend.
(i) NIUE GENEAOLOGY
The Department of Justice, Lands and Surveys maintains a database of Genealogical information relevant to all persons of Niuean descent. Such information was initially provided to the Department by certain Tupuna from each village at various times and from the records of the Niue High Court.
The data contained within this database does not purport to be a comprehensive and exact record of all the Niuean genealogical information however it is believed or endeavors to be the most comprehensive compilation of Niuean genealogical records as far as the records and accounts available can allow, in existence.The information in the database as far as it can be done, has been cross referenced with other data available to the Department such as Births, Deaths and Marriage records and Statistical information pertaining to the entry and Departures of Niuean persons prior to self-Government status which was acquired in 1974.
This compilation of this information is an ongoing process and is now being recorded and stored electronically. Copies and printouts can be obtained from the Department upon request. Magafaoa are encouraged to assess the information held by the Department which is relevant to them, to determine the veracity thereof and to request for amendment or correction if necessary.
New information to be entered into the genealogy database requires that other corroborative information or evidence such as Birth, Death or Marriage records are to be provided, to substantiate the inclusion of such new information.
It is understood that the formal recording of this genealogical information dates back to the early 1900s however much of this information predates the 1900’s.
Much of this genealogical and other information retained by the Department was initially microfilmed in 1970s and is currently held at Pacific Manuscripts Bureau (PMB) at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia. The other early work was undertaken by Bob Langdon in November 1974 of the London Missionary Society correspondence, registers and other church records, dating from 1910 – 1953.
Further microfilming was undertaken by the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints of all the Niue Births, Deaths and Marriage Registers, in the early 1990’s.
A further visit was undertaken by Ewan Maidment from the PMB in July 2004, this resulted in the microfilming of the Land Court Minutes dating from 1941 – 2003; the Registers of Births and Deaths from1910 – 1916, the Marriage records dating from 1900 – 1972; the Wills and testimonials of Niuean persons held by the Department from1888 – 1986 (Restricted access) and the Land Titling Project Reports 1994 – 1999.
A large portion of the documents and records held at the Department have become quite fragile and damaged from repeated use and age. The records are also susceptible to many other threats such as a high humidity environment and pests like silverfish, hornets and cockroaches.
The greatest threat in recent times to the integrity of these documents was a severe Tropical Cyclone which destroyed the buildings of the Department in 2004. The Department was housed in buildings that were in close proximity to the sea.
A large proportion of the Department records were water damaged or affected. This threat has now been addressed with the relocation of the Department to the upper terrace of the island, however the records are still being stored in 2nd hand shipping containers, it is hoped that the Niue Government will eventually seek the resources necessary to build appropriate facilities for the housing of the Department, a national Court house and storage facilities for the appropriate storage of documents.
Similarly, the records held by the National Archives are also subject to the same concerns and threats, the collection urgently requires better storage facilities as well as effective restoration processes for the preservation of such documents for the use of the Department and the general public.
The lack of appropriate facilities to house and protect this historical information may give rise to the eventual loss of such information.
The 2019/2020 Annual Report of the Department noted the sector as a major revenue earner with Niue genealogy requests and mainly from Niue peoples abroad and for the purposes of land court hearings.
Any questions or enquiries in regards to this article will be forwarded to the Department of Justice, Lands and Survey or you can contact them directly at the following address: P O Box 75, Fonuakula, Alofi, Niue. Ph (00683) 4127 or 4128.
(ii) NATIONAL LIBRARY OF NIUE
A National Library is a focal point for supporting the vital role of Tāoga Niue as custodians of the nation’s intellectual heritage. It will provide organisations with access to and preservation of the national imprint in all media.
The role of a national library is different from that of a public library as it’s purpose is to preserve the literature produced in the country. A national library is free to all residents on equal terms. Its aim is to contribute to the quality of life, and to promote the concept of a democratic society. The main function of a national library is carried out by means of legal deposit laws, to ensure that every item published in a country is collected and preserved. In order to have all documents together for accessibility and preservation, it is necessary to have legislation in place. National libraries have special responsibilities, often defined in law, within a nation’s library and information systems. This includes the collection via legal deposit of the national imprint (both print and electronic), cataloguing and preservation.
Nature and role of legal deposit
Legal deposit is a statutory obligation requiring any organisation, commercial or public, and nay individual producing any type of documentation, to deposit that product in multiple copies with a recognised national institution. It is important to make sure that the legislation covers all kinds of published material, this is, material generally produced to multiple copies and “offered to the public regardless of the means of transmission,” in order to differentiate it from “archival”, which refers to records, either governmental, corporate or personal, which are usually unique items, not available for public distribution and more of a private or personal nature. Legal deposit legislation serves a clear national public policy interest by ensuring the acquisition, recording, preservation and availability of a nation’s published heritage. Such a national collection is undoubtedly one of the major components of a country’s cultural policy and should also be considered as the foundation of a national policy of freedom of expression and access to information.
The Archives Act 1992 (amended 2012) have the following procedures to follow in terms of information made publicly available:
Section 16 – “16A Deposit of Niue documents concerning tāoga Niue:
(1) A person who makes a document publicly available must provide 2 copies of the document to the Archivist for deposit in the Archives Office – (a) within 4 weeks after making the document publicly available; and (b) free of charge. (2) A person who fails to comply with this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding 10 penalty units.
(3) This section applies despite anything in the Copyright Act 1962 or in any other intellectual property right or law.
(4) In this section,- “document” – (a) means a document that (i) is printed in Niue, or whose author or publisher is resident in Niue; and (ii) concerns or refers to tāoga Niue; and (b) includes (i) books; and (ii) serials; and (iii) pamphlets; and (iv) sheets of letter press or music; and (v) plans, maps, charts, or tables; and (vi) audio visual materials; and (vii) documents that are in microform or digital form; and (viii) any part of a document; and (ix) each edition of a document: “publicly available” includes issuing a document –
(a) in hard copy format; or (b) in electronic format, whether online or offline
(tāoga Niue has the same meaning as in section 3(1) of the Tāoga Niue Act 2012)
(iii) NIUE HERITAGE SITES – Cultural, Natural and Historical Significance
The Department is the focal point of contact for the 1972 World Heritage Convention Niue ratified in 2001. One of the purposes of Tāoga Niue Act 2012 is to support the implementation of the Convention and cultural heritage in this context is considered as:
monuments: architectural works, works of monumental sculpture and painting, elements or structures of an archaeological nature, inscriptions, cave dwellings and combinations of features, which are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science;
groups of buildings: groups of separate or connected buildings which, because of their architecture, their homogeneity or their place in the landscape, are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science;
sites: works of man or the combined works of nature and man, and areas including archaeological sites which are of outstanding universal value from the historical, aesthetic, ethnological or anthropological point of view; and natural heritage as: natural features consisting of physical and biological formations or groups of such formations, which are of outstanding universal value from the aesthetic or scientific point of view;
geological and physiographical formations and precisely delineated areas which constitute the habitat of threatened species of animals and plants of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation;
natural sites or precisely delineated natural areas of outstanding universalvalue from the point of view of science, conservation or natural beauty.
The identification of Niue natural and cultural heritage sites is an ongoing task, it also has its own challenges in terms of identifying, documenting and management of essential information. Most of Niue’s heritage sites are located on landowned by the family – the magafaoa and any work required in terms of protecting and promoting conservation measures must be consulted with the relevant magafaoa. Failure to do so would create delays and misunderstandings with the focal point of contact and sometimes consultations never materialised to the level as expected and sites susceptible to vandalism, inappropriate uses (dumping grounds) or in favour of new development work.
It is understood that Niue is far too under-resourced and unable to meet obligations under the 1972 Convention and to drive the work forward including regular follow ups with relevant stakeholders. This is the challenge we hope that from any engagement with the youth and women they are also able to assist with role of the Niue focal point. Education and awareness will play an important role in the years ahead.
Niue Centennial Building
(Moira Enetama, September 2017)
The Niue Centennial Building is one of Niue’s heritage assets, located in northern side of the village of Alofi and near Sir Robert’s Wharf. It is of national, cultural and historical significance to Niue. In 1846 and after many unsuccessful efforts by the London Missionary Society (LMS) to evangelise the isolated community, Good News finally reached Niue. This success was followed by visits of Mission Teachers/ Pastors from Samoa and later with European missionaries from England who spend many years in Niue. To recognise the milestone of 100 years and Niue’s very first Missionary Nukai Peniamina, the Centennial Building was constructed. Peniamina had been in Samoa since 1831 and
attended missionary training at Malua. He was baptized the following year and the missionaries changed his name from Nukai to Peniamina – Benjamin, in the Bible.
Rev. Harold Taylor was initially tasked to lead the work on the building but his departure from Niue prompted his replacement, Rev. Caleb Beharell to take over the role and construction commenced in February 1946. The Church (Lotu Lamosa – established under the auspices of LMS), selected Mission Teacher/ Pastor Alesana Halanetau to lead the work and construction team consists of members selected from all village communities. The Church allocated a certain amount of funds the villages is required to contribute towards
the purchase of materials not available in Niue like, cement, roofing iron, paint, steel rods and others, to the value of £780. Furthermore, villages laboured endlessly to make limestone ovens (umupuga), cutting and shaping of timber, collecting sand, rocks and puga. Every village community contributed to the production of construction materials including women and children and transportation of materials to Alofi by the Niue Island Administration (NIA). People pooled together all their resources towards the cause as well as sustaining the days of the workers with food and drinks.
It took 151 days to complete the building and celebrations which took place on 5thNovember 1946 at Alofi were adorned with colour in spectacular form. The building was opened by Mr C.R. Lankshear, honorary secretary of the LMS in New Zealand followed by a church service, feasting, singing and dancing. Village contributions towards the feast were transported to Alofi during the night by NIA transport and a galue fafau (traditional feast of raw food crops displayed on wooden frames) was put together to mark the occasion. There were
also monetary contributions from Niue peoples living in Apia, Samoa and Wellington, New Zealand.
The building was used mainly as a Training Institution (Vailahi) for young men studying to become pastors and in later years, used for prayer services for non Vagahau Niue speakers and other purposes of the Church.
In 1983 and after many years of neglection to its continuing maintenance, the Ekalesia Kerisiano Niue Church established a fund towards the restoration of the building. The Government of Niue also provided financial assistance but work did not actually commenced until 1998 and completed in 2001. In the same year, Niue celebrated 100 years of association with New Zealand. The Church continued to face many challenges in maintaining the building and without any attention to it after Cyclone Heta in 2004, the affects were becoming more visible. Adjacent to the building and towards Sir Robert’s Wharf were damaged fuel tanks, constructed at a later date and specifically to pump fuel into from the monthly visiting vessel and stored as a bulk supply. The tanks were severely damaged and supplies have since relocated in the aftermath of Cyclone Heta. The area was once a site of cottages built by villages to house students attending the Vailahi Training Institution, a special space for families to meet when visiting Alofi.
Over the years and with changes in the packaging of bulk supplies transported by boat to Niue, the space to the northern side of the building is used as a holding area by the Port Authority before cleared by Niue Customs. The supplies can be bulky, and enormously heavy requiring special equipments to organise them in the holding area before distributed to the expected customers. The building always seems to be suffocating when these activities takes place at the site, during and after the monthly visits of the boat. The Church have already voiced their sentiments calling those concerned for other an alternative space to hold cargo rather than targeting this particular area.
There are very few buildings in Niue that contains so much history as that of the Centennial. It has withstand many strong winds and severe cyclones Niue experienced in the past including the many generations that have passed on, but this building still stands proud. It is an icon to the Church, the village of Alofi and Niue as a whole. It is timely to discuss with all stakeholders or any interested parties to list and declare property as one of Niue’s protected tāoga.
Tāoga Niue have been promoting and advising the community to recognise the need to protect and maintain Niue’s heritage assets as most of them are located on Niue land and belong to the Magafaoa. The Department cannot take full charge in the protection of these assets from wear and tear, natural disasters, human intervention or any other form of damage without the support of the community and those who are primarily tasked to protect them.