Status: Parliamentary Democracy in free association with New Zealand
Population: 2,000 (2019 estimate)
Area: 100 sq miles
Currency: New Zealand Dollar (100 cents = $1) NZ$1 = US$0.71
Niue is a single limestone monolith, larger than the District of Columbia and 250 miles from its nearest neighbor. Created by different tectonic upheavals, the island has two distinct levels. The wooded central plateau rises about 200 feet above the ocean. The lower level slopes down to 30-foot limestone cliffs.
Capt. Cook discovered the island and its population in June 1774 on his second Pacific voyage. He made at least two attempted landings. Both were confronted by inhabitants who threw rocks and spears at the landing party. As a result of his encounters he called it “Savage Island.” The inhospitality of the island was confirmed by London Missionary Society members, who were also rebuffed on their first visit in 1830. Following years of futile effort by missionary groups, a Christian Niuean returned from Samoa in 1842 and over about a decade, converted the island.
After 1887, the king repeatedly requested British protection. Although British influence was strong, they showed little interest in formalizing their relationship until 1900, when the Germans and Americans divided neighboring Samoa. To protect their interests in Niue, the British proclaimed it a protectorate on April 21, 1900. The following year, they transferred it to New Zealand.
From left to right: Niue Scott 7,39, and 94
After World War II, Niue moved toward a more participatory democracy. An appointed Island Council was replaced by an elected Legislative Assembly in 1959. On October 19, 1974, Niue became self-governing in free association with New Zealand. The population of Niue is currently declining, due mainly to emigration to New Zealand. In 1966, the population peaked at 5,200, surpassing its 1880 level of 5,000. By 2017, though, it had fallen to 1,618. Today, there are five times more Niueans in Wellington than in Niue.
Soon after New Zealand took over, Niue issued its first postage stamps. The New Zealand 1d “Universal Penny Postage” stamp of 1901 was handstamped “Niue” and placed on sale in Alofi, the capital, on January 4, 1902. The handstamps were replaced in April and May, with typeset overprints and surcharged with additional values. Overprinted New Zealand stamps continued to be used until 1920, when six values were released using identical designs to a Cook Island set depicting Cook Island scenes.
From left to right: Niue Scott 115,168,479, and 769A
Niue got its own stamps in 1950, when six definitives were produced by Bradbury Wilkinson specifically for the islands. This set remained in use for 17 years. When New Zealand adopted decimal currency in 1967, the set was surcharged with new values and continued to be used for two more years.
Stamps have historically been an important source of revenue for Niue. In 1996, it created the Niue Philatelic and Numismatic Corporation, with a shop to promote stamp sales in a mall in Alofi. Overseas philatelic sales are handled by New Zealand Post. Niue produces many attractive new stamps; more than ample for a country of 2,000.