Niue's remoteness, as well as cultural and linguistic differences between its Polynesian inhabitants and those of the rest of the Cook Islands, have caused it to be separately administered. The population of the island continues to drop (from a peak of 5,200 in 1966 to about 2,100 in 2004), with substantial emigration to New Zealand, 2,400 km to the southwest.
European involvement in Niue began in 1774 with Captain James Cook's sighting (landing was refused) of what he named "Savage Island". Legend has it that Cook so named the island because the natives that "greeted" him were painted in what appeared to Cook and his crew to be blood.
The next major arrival was the London Missionary Society in 1846. Briefly a protectorate, the UK's involvement was passed on in 1901 when New Zealand annexed the island. Independence in the form of self-government was granted by the New Zealand parliament in the 1974 constitution.
In January of 2004, Niue was hit by the fierce tropical storm Cyclone Heta which killed two people and caused extensive damage to the entire island