Niue communities in Aotearoa

A starting point for building your understanding of Niue culture. It includes some common concepts, terms and phrases that families in Aotearoa might use and value. Read it alongside the related page Pacific peoples and cultures in Aotearoa.

Land and people

Niue is one of the biggest coral islands in the world. Niue lands are considered sacred and cannot be sold, but they can be leased.

Niue was settled by groups from Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands. The influences of these groups are heard in the Niue language ( ). Niue people regard their language as the essence of their identity.

Niue was governed by New Zealand from 1901 until 1974, when Niue people adopted a constitution that restored full self-government in free association with Aotearoa. Under the free association arrangement, Niue people are entitled to dual citizenship in both countries.

Under New Zealand administration, children had to speak English and were punished if they were caught speaking Niuean. This has had long-lasting negative impacts on the Vagahau Niue and culture.

Niue was originally named Nukututaha which means an island standing alone. According to 1 legend, people from Tonga and Samoa gifted coconuts to a group of Niue men. The men were advised to return home and plant the fruits for their people, which they did. The value of the tree soon became clear, and the coconut became a symbol of life to Niue people. The people of Niue eventually changed the name of their island from Nukututaha to Niue in remembrance of this ‘gift of life’. ‘Niu’ means coconut and ‘e’ means here. When Niu-e is translated it says “Here is the coconut”.


Niue society can be represented by the layers of a young coconut.

Niuean family structure
Niuean family structure


The inner layer of a young coconut consists of the juice and the flesh which represent the , the core Niuean family. The father is traditionally the decision-maker, although not all families are traditional and some are led by women.

Magafaoa laulahi 

he second layer is the coconut’s hard shell that protects the family unit. This represents the (extended family).

Ko e maaga

The third layer is the netted husk that represents the family’s community, particularly religious communities and village affiliations. Traditional Niuean society was organised according to the village system. Every married man was entitled to take part in discussions about village affairs.

Ko au ko e tagata Niue

The final outside layer is the skin of the coconut, which represents one’s unique cultural identity as a Niuean. “Ko au ko e tagata Niue.

Culture and values

Dignified conduct and observing protocols of engagement are important to Niue people. People who openly express their views and feelings with little consideration for others, or who fail to recognise their contribution to their own situation, may be perceived to lack fakatokolalo (respect and humility).

Family terms

Niuean English
child (male or female)
(or) tau magafaoa extended family

Common greetings and phrases

Niuean English
Greetings, hello
(or) Welcome, come in (singular)
(or) Omai ki fale Welcome, come in (plural)
How are you?
I am well, thank you
Fakamolemole la ma Matua (or) ma matakainaga Please excuse me, I apologise for the intrusion
Thank you
Excuse me
Goodbye (to 1 person)
Goodbye (to 2 people)
Goodbye (to 3 or more people)
(or) Have a good day, all the best

Working with Pacific peoples: Va'aifetū

Most of the information in this article comes from Va'aifetū, the Oranga Tamariki cultural practice tool for working with Pacific children and their families. Read it to find out more about Pacific cultures and building relationships with Pacific peoples.

Working with Pacific peoples: Va'aifetū | Practice Centre(external link)