Tokelau country brief


Tokelau is a non-self-governing territory of New Zealand. Its capital and leader (Ulu) rotates yearly between its three small coral atolls, Atafu, Nukunonu and Fakaofo, which have a combined land area of 12 square kilometres and a combined population of approximately 1,400 (2013 census). An additional 7,194 Tokelauans live in New Zealand (2013 census) and around 1,655 live in Australia (2011).

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 produce the two-thirds majority vote necessary to change Tokelau’s status.

System of Government

The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II. New Zealand is represented by an Administrator, Jonathan Kings, appointed by the New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs. The unicameral parliament of Tokelau is called the General Fono. The Council for the Ongoing Governance of Tokelau, which functions as a cabinet, consists of the Faipule (leader) and Pulenuku (village mayor) of each of the three atolls. The office of head of government, known as the Ulu o Tokelau, rotates between the three Faipule for a one-year term. Siopili Perez became Ulu o Tokelau in February 201 7 (and was previously Ulu in 2015). New Zealand statute law does not apply to Tokelau unless it is expressly extended to Tokelau and no New Zealand legislation is extended to Tokelau without Tokelauan consent.

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 the smallest economy in the world. The 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.

A Tokelau International Trust Fund, which has received contributions from international donors since 2004, now stands at around $79 million. In June 2014, when the Fund matured, annual interest of around $4 million per year became available to the Tokelau Administration for recurrent revenue and development expenditure.

High Level Visits

September 2016: Ulu of Tokelau, Afega Gaualofa, attended the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting in Pohnpei.

July 2015: Ulu of Tokelau, Siopili Perez, attended the Pacific Islands Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting in Sydney.

July 2014: The Ulu of Tokelau, Kuresa Nasau, met with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs Brett Mason at the 2014 UN Small Islands Developing States Conference in Samoa.

June 2014: The Ulu of Tokelau, Kuresa Nasau, met with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs Senator Brett Mason in Canberra.

Last Updated: 15 September 2014