The world's smallest self-governing country may give up its independence in the wake of a devastating cyclone last week which made a tenth of its people homeless.
Politicians on the Pacific island of Niue say the resulting exodus could make its current status unviable.
At present 2,100 people live on the island, 6,500km northeast of New Zealand, but only half are native Niueans, and that may fall to 500 in the coming months.
"People have already started leaving," the former finance minister, Terry Coe, told the Auckland Sunday Star-Times. "The morale of people is really quite low."
The acting premier, Toke Talagi, said the devastation caused by last Monday's storm would push many islanders to New Zealand, where all Niueans have rights of citizenship and 20,000 already live.
The island became a self-governing territory "in free association with New Zealand" in 1974.
"Many, I'm sure, have been thinking about options other than living in Niue," he said.
"Those people who have contemplated leaving will now be resolved to leave. The fact we have free access to New Zealand means that we have that option. It is a blessing and a curse."
Cyclone Heta is described as the worst storm in living memory on Niue. One person was killed in a collapsing building and the capital Alofi was flattened by 300kph winds.
A storm surge and waves overwhelmed the 18m cliffs which ring the island.
On top of that, asbestos released from old houses destroyed by the cyclone threatens a public health crisis.
The estimated US$34 million cost of clearing it up is more than six times the annual aid Niue receives from New Zealand, which in itself represents about two-thirds of the country's GDP.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff said Niue's constitutional status was under review but the decision would be left to the government in Alofi.
"We need to acknowledge what the people on Niue want, rather than being seen as a former colonial country imposing our will," he said.
"Without a living community on Niue -- that would endanger the culture and language of Niuean people."
Tourism is the only industry of any size on Niue, a 250km2 raised coral atoll populated by Polynesians closely related to the people of Tonga and Samoa.
The island, however, had the distinction of being the only country to have nationwide wireless Internet access until Cyclone Heta destroyed the transmitter last week.
The viability of the Pacific microstates has come into question in recent months, since Australia mooted the idea of pooled regional governance at the annual meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum.
In a policy paper last month Canberra mentioned Nauru, which houses an Australian refugee camp where a month-long hunger strike ended last week, as a possible candidate for re-integration with Australia.
The Niuean government recently considered offering citizenship to the people of Tuvalu, a north Pacific island state in danger of being overwhelmed by the rising sea level due to global warming, to help stem its own population problem.