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Winston Peters gives early Christmas present to Tokelau - an $860,000 boat

Deputy PM Winston Peters gifted Tokelau an $860,000 boat today to be used as an emergency response vessel and a ferry between the New Zealand territory's three atolls.

"Today's event ...reflects the spirit of collaboration as we pursue the shared goal of keeping our people safe at sea," Mr Peters said today during a handing over of the keys ceremony in Lyttleton attended by Tokelau Administrator Ross Ardern, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's father.

The vessel is the islands' first purpose-built emergency response vessel, Peters said, pointing out that it included a reclining first aid bed.

As a ferry, it will be tasked with travelling between Atafu, Nukunonu and Fakaofo.

"Reliable, efficient transportation between Tokelau's atolls is vital - both in terms of having an emergency response capability and to allow Tokelauans safe international travel," Mr Peter said of the vessel, which has been dubbed Fetu o te Moana - or Star of the Sea.

While villages in Tokelau largely govern themselves, the Pacific islands have been a New Zealand territory since 1948, with residents there considered New Zealand citizens.