So, you've never heard of Niue (pronounced "new-uh")? Most people haven't. This coral and limestone island, known as "The Rock of Polynesia" (or simply "The Rock" by locals), is a well-kept secret 2,400 kilometers northeast of New Zealand. It lies inside a triangle formed by Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands. Un-spoiled by tourism, this small island is only 260 sq. km. (162.5 sq. mi.) of soil that is high in iron and aluminum oxide, with an unusually high level of natural radioactivity.
Niue is blessed with a tropical climate and a quarter of the island is virgin rainforest. The people of Niue take pride in their island’s natural beauty, peaceful environment, friendly atmosphere and lack of crowds. Most Niuean families grow their own crops for food – some say Niue's taro, grown for food and export, is the best in the Pacific. Tuna processing is another local industry, as is the extraction of juice from over 30,000 noni plants – the largest plantation in the world – for export.
One of the world’s largest coral islands, Niue's remoteness, as well as cultural and linguistic differences between its Polynesian inhabitants and the rest of the Cook Islands have caused it to remain separately administered. It is self-governing but maintains a free diplomatic association with New Zealand, which provides defense on Niue’s behalf.
In 1774, British Captain James Cook sighted the island but was refused landing privileges by the locals. Niue remained independent of significant European involvement for seventy more years. The next major arrival was that of the London Missionary Society in 1846. Today, most of the island’s people (approximately 61%) are members of the Ekalesia Niue, or Niuean Church, a Protestant group closely related to the London Missionary Society.
The people of Niue speak Niuean, a Polynesian language closely related to Tongan and Samoan. Some are bilingual in English. The complete Bible in Niuean was first published in 1904.
Since many Niueans have immigrated to New Zealand, its population has dropped significantly over the past 40 years, from 5,200 in 1966 to about 2,166 in 2006. Niue suffered a devastating typhoon in January 2004 and has received significant foreign aid for the rebuilding process.