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Flag of Tokelau

Tokelau country brief


Tokelau is a non-self-governing territory of New Zealand. Its leadership and capital rotates yearly between its three coral atolls, Atafu, Nukunonu and Fakaofo, which have a combined land area of 12 square kilometres and a combined resident population of 1,499 (2016 census). Tokelauans also live in New Zealand, Australia, and in other parts of the Pacific.

Political overview

Tokelauans are New Zealand citizens with the right to enter and live in New Zealand and Australia. New Zealand is responsible for Tokelau's foreign affairs and defence. Referendums on self-determination in 2006 and 2007 did not reach the two-thirds majority vote necessary to change Tokelau's status to a self-governing state in free association with New Zealand, like the Cook Islands and Niue.

System of Government

The unicameral parliament of Tokelau is called the General Fono. The Council for the Ongoing Governance of Tokelau, which functions as the governing organisation when the General Fono is not in session, consists of the Faipule (leader) and Pulenuku (village mayor) of each of the three atolls. The office of Tokelau’s head of government, known as the Ulu-o-Tokelau (‘Ulu’), rotates between the three Faipule for a one-year term. Queen Elizabeth II is Tokelau’s Head of State. New Zealand statute law does not apply to Tokelau unless expressly extended to Tokelau, and no New Zealand legislation is extended to Tokelau without its consent. Ross Arden, appointed by the New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs, represented New Zealand as its Administrator.

Bilateral relations

The Australian High Commissioner to New Zealand is responsible for Australian affairs in Tokelau. Australia's relationship with Tokelau is based mainly on shared membership of regional organisations, development cooperation and people-to-people links.

Development Assistance

More information on development assistance in Tokelau.

Economic Overview

Tokelau has one of the world’s smallest economies. Its principal sources of revenue are sales of copra, postage stamps, souvenir coins, handicrafts and remittances from relatives in New Zealand. Tokelau receives 90 per cent of its power from photovoltaic power stations funded by New Zealand.

The Tokelau International Trust Fund, formally established in November 2004, was designed to provide intergenerational security and an independent source of income to Tokelau in the future. Its balance as at 30 June 2018 was $NZ 90.3 million.

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