GEOGRAPHY OF NIUE

Coat of arms
FLAG OF NIUE
MAP OF NIUE
Niue is a 269 km² island in the southern Pacific Ocean, east of Tonga. The geographic coordinates are 19°03′48″S 169°52′11″W19.06333°S 169.86972°W. There are three geographically outlying coral reefs within the Exclusive Economic Zone that do not have any land area:

1. Beveridge Reef, at 20°00'S, 167°48'W, 240 km southeast, submerged atoll drying during low tide, 9.5 km North-South, 7.5 km East-West, total area 56 km², no land area, lagoon 11 meters deep
2. Antiope Reef, at 18°15'S, 168°24'W, 180 km southeast, is a circular plateau approximately 400 metres in diameter, with a least depth of 9.5 metres
3. Haran Reef (Harans Reef), at 21°33'S, 168°55'W, reported to break furiously, 294 km southeast

Besides these, Albert Meyer Reef, (20°53'S, 172°19'W, almost 5 km long and wide, least depth 3 metres, 326 km southwest) is not officially claimed by Niue, and the existence of Haymet Rocks, (26°S, 160°W, 1273 km ESE)is in doubt. Niue is one of the world's largest coral islands. The terrain consists of steep limestone cliffs along the coast with a central plateau rising to about 60 metres above sea level. A coral reef surrounds the island, with the only major break in the reef being in the central western coast, close to the capital, Alofi. A notable feature is the number of limestone caves found close to the coast.

The island is roughly oval in shape (with a diameter of about 18 kilometres), with two large bays indenting the western coast, Alofi Bay in the centre and Avatele Bay in the south. Between these is the promontory of Halagigie Point. A small peninsula, TePā Point (Blowhole Point), is close to the settlement of Avatele in the southwest. Most of the population resides close to the west coast, around the capital, and in the northwest.

Some of the soils are geochemically very unusual. They are extremely highly weathered tropical soils, with high levels of iron and aluminium oxides (oxisol) and mercury, and they contain surprisingly high levels of natural radioactivity. There is almost no uranium, but the radionucleides Th-230 and Pa-231 head the decay chains. This is the same distribution of elements as found naturally on very deep seabeds, but the geochemical evidence suggests that the origin is extreme weathering of coral and brief sea submergence 120,000 years ago. Endothermal upwelling, by which mild natural volcanic heat draws deep seawater up through the porous coral, may also contribute.

No adverse health effects from the radioactivity or other trace elements have been demonstrated and calculations show that level of radioactivity would probably be much too low to be detected in the population. These unusual soils are very rich in phosphate, but it is not accessible to plants, being in the very insoluble form of iron phosphate, or crandallite.

It is thought that rather similar radioactive soils may exist on Lifou and Mare near New Caledonia, and Rennell in the Solomon Islands, but no other locations are known. The time difference between Niue and mainland New Zealand is 23 hours during the Southern Hemisphere winter and 24 hours when the mainland uses Daylight Saving Time. The island has a tropical climate, with most rainfall occurring between November and April.

Defence and foreign affairs
Niue has been self-governing in free association with New Zealand since 3 September 1974 when the people endorsed the Constitution in a plebiscite. Niue is fully responsible for its internal affairs. Niue's position concerning its external relations is less clear cut. Section 6 of the Niue Constitution Act provides that: "Nothing in this Act or in the Constitution shall affect the responsibilities of Her Majesty the Queen in right of New Zealand for the external affairs and defence of Niue." Section 8 elaborates but still leaves the position unclear, providing "Effect shall be given to the provisions of sections 6 and 7 [concerning external affairs and defence and economic and administrative assistance respectively] of this Act, and to any other aspect of the relationship between New Zealand and Niue which may from time to time call for positive co-operation between New Zealand and Niue after consultation between the Prime Minister of New Zealand and the Premier of Niue, and in accordance with the policies of their respective Governments; and, if it appears desirable that any provision be made in the law of Niue to carry out these policies, that provision may be made in the manner prescribed in the Constitution, but not otherwise." The island has a representative mission in Wellington, New Zealand. Niue is also a member of the South Pacific Forum and a number of regional and international agencies. It is not a member of the United Nations, but is a state party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Ottawa Treaty and the Treaty of Rarotonga.

Niue purported to establish diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China on December 12, 2007. However, in light of its Constitution it is uncertain whether Niue had the capacity to enter diplomatic relations with any country. Traditionally, Niue's foreign relations and defence have been regarded as the responsibility of New Zealand, which has full diplomatic relations with China. Furthermore the Joint Communique signed by Niue and China is different in its treatment of the Taiwan question from that agreed by New Zealand and China. New Zealand "acknowledged" China's position on Taiwan but has never expressly agreed with it, but Niue "recognizes that there is only one China in the world, the Government of the People's Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China and Taiwan is an inalienable part of the territory of China." Critics have asked whether Niueans can continue to benefit from free association with New Zealand and yet disregard New Zealand's advice and establish an independent foreign policy.