The tiny South Pacific islands of Tokelau have failed to pass a proposal to become self-governing, after 120 years as a colony.
Sixty per cent of the islands' 600 voters supported an end to rule by New Zealand, but this fell short of the two-thirds majority required.
Tokelau, which New Zealand has governed since 1926, depends on it for aid.
Tokelau's outgoing political leader Pio Tuia, who backed self-government, said he was satisfied with the result.
"I'm happy because it's the will of the people," the French news agency AFP quoted him as saying.
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"The people of Tokelau have traditionally taken a very cautious approach to change," Tokelau administrator Neil Walter said in a statement.
He had remarked before the referendum result that Tokelau had been in full control of its own affairs, with New Zealand support, for a number of years already.
He said it was possible the islanders may take the vote again in the next few years.
Tokelau is made up of three coral atolls which have no airport, roads or capital and are home to 1,500 people.
Tokelau's territory is just 4.7 sq miles (12 sq km), lying halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand.
Seized by Britain in 1889, they were handed to New Zealand to administer in 1926.