Dateline shift gives first light to remote atoll

Last updated 13:05 03/10/2011
A sunrise.
EARLY START: The world's first sunrise each day will soon shift to Fakaofo in Tokelau.

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New Zealand's first light of each new day will soon rise over a remote and little visited piece of New Zealand – thanks to a decision by Tokelau to jump from yesterday and over the International Dateline into today.

First light honours, shared in summer by East Cape's Mt Hikurangi and the Chatham Islands, will now belong to Fakaofo in Tokelau.

Tokelau, a three atoll New Zealand colony and home to 1200 people, has opted to move across the Dateline, following Samoa to the south.

Earlier this year Samoa's Prime Minister Tuila'epa Sailele announced his state would move, separating it from American Samoa and Tokelau.

The three atolls of Tokelau, home to 1200 New Zealanders and without airport, harbour or capital, has its logistics headquarters in Apia.

Tokelau's National Public Service manager Joe Suveinakama told Radio New Zealand International that the atoll's fono or local government decided to move with Samoa.

He said it will make it easier to do business with New Zealand.

"It'll be useful that on Fridays we call New Zealand somebody will be on the other side of the office whereas at the current time they come to work on Monday, it's our Sunday, we come to work on Friday, it's their Saturday, so we actually lose a day in terms of operation," he told the broadcaster.

Tokelau's switch will have to be legally amended in New Zealand law and will likely come into effect in December, when Samoa jumps across the line.

Tokelau's atolls are effectively New Zealand's northern most point and Fakaofo the eastern most point.

While Fakaofo will be west of the dateline, geographically it is at 171 degrees 15 west – in the western hemisphere. The Chathams are also in that hemisphere, at 176 degrees west, but closer to New Zealand.

The sun will rise over Fakaofo over an hour before New Zealand.

Around 40 outsiders a year get to Tokelau.

Scottish comedian Billy Connolly's wife Pamela Stephenson once moored off Fakaofo and went ashore, only to be told to go away.

In her book Treasure Island she had the chapter heading "Told to Fakaofo".

-Fairfax NZ

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