Originally settled by Polynesian emigrants from surrounding island groups, the Tokelau Islands were made a British protectorate in 1889. They were transferred to New Zealand administration in 1925. Referenda held in 2006 and 2007 to change the status of the islands from that of a New Zealand territory to one of free association with New Zealand did not meet the needed threshold for approval.



Oceania, group of three atolls in the South Pacific Ocean, about one-half of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand

Geographic coordinates

9 00 S, 172 00 W

Map references



total: 12 sq km
land: 12 sq km
water: 0 sq km

Area - comparative

about 17 times the size of the National Mall in Washington, DC

Land boundaries

0 km


101 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm


tropical; moderated by trade winds (April to November)


low-lying coral atolls enclosing large lagoons


mean elevation: NA
elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location 5 m

Natural resources


Land use

agricultural land: 60%
arable land 0%; permanent crops 60%; permanent pasture 0%
forest: 0%
other: 40% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

0 sq km (2012)

Natural hazards

lies in Pacific typhoon belt

Environment - current issues

limited natural resources and overcrowding are contributing to emigration to New Zealand

Geography - note

consists of three atolls (Atafu, Fakaofo, Nukunonu), each with a lagoon surrounded by a number of reef-bound islets of varying length and rising to over 3 m above sea level

People and Society

Population growth rate

-0.01% (2014 est.)


1,337 (July 2014 est.)


noun: Tokelauan(s)
adjective: Tokelauan

Ethnic groups

Tokelauan 65.3%, part Tokelauan/Samoan 8.7%, part Tokelauan/Tuvaluan 6.9%, part Tokelauan/other Pacific islander 1.9%, part Tokelauan/European 1%, Samoan 6.7%, Tuvaluan 2.8%, other Pacific islander 1.1%, other 5.1%, unspecified 0.4% (2011 est.)


Tokelauan 93.5% (a Polynesian language), English 58.9%, Samoan 45.5%, Tuvaluan 11.6%, Kiribati 2.7%, other 2.5%, none 4.1%, unspecified 0.6%
note: shares sum to more than 100% because some respondents gave more than one answer on the census (2011 ests.)


Congregational Christian Church 58.2%, Roman Catholic 36.6%, Presbyterian 1.8%, other Christian 2.8%, Spiritualism and New Age 0.1%, unspecified 0.5% (2011 est.)


urban population: 0% of total population (2015)
rate of urbanization: 0% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Sex ratio


Infant mortality rate

total: NA
male: NA
female: NA

Life expectancy at birth

total population: NA
male: NA
female: NA

Total fertility rate


Drinking water source

rural: 100% of population
total: 100% of population
rural: 0% of population
total: 0% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access

rural: 90.5% of population
total: 90.5% of population
rural: 9.5% of population
total: 9.5% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate


HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS


HIV/AIDS - deaths


Education expenditures



Administrative divisions

none (territory of New Zealand)

Country name

conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Tokelau
etymology: "tokelau" is a Polynesian word meaning "north wind"

Dependency status

self-administering territory of New Zealand; note - Tokelau and New Zealand have agreed to a draft constitution as Tokelau moves toward free association with New Zealand; a UN-sponsored referendum on self governance in October 2007 did not produce the two-thirds majority vote necessary for changing the political status

Government type

parliamentary democratic dependency (General Fono); a territory of New Zealand


none; each atoll has its own administrative center
time difference: UTC+13 (18 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)


none (territory of New Zealand)

National holiday

Waitangi Day (Treaty of Waitangi established British sovereignty over New Zealand), 6 February (1840)


many previous; latest effective 1 January 1949 (Tokelau Islands Act 1948); amended many times, last in 2007 (2016)

Legal system

common law system of New Zealand


see New Zealand


21 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor General of New Zealand Anand SATYANAND (since 23 August 2006); New Zealand is represented by Administrator Jonathan KINGS (since February 2011)
head of government: Siopili PEREZ (since 23 February 2015); note - position rotates annually among the 3 Faipule (village leaders)
cabinet: the Council for the Ongoing Government of Tokelau functions as a cabinet; consists of 3 Faipule (village leaders) and 3 Pulenuku (village mayors)
elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch; administrator appointed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade in New Zealand; head of government chosen from the Council of Faipule to serve a 1-year term

Legislative branch

description: unicameral General Fono (20 seats apportioned by island - Atafu 7, Fakaofo 7, Nukunonu 6; members directly elected by simple majority vote to serve 3-year terms); note - the Tokelau Amendment Act of 1996 confers limited legislative power to the General Fono
elections: last held on 23 January 2014 (next to be held in 2017)
election results: independent 20

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Court of Appeal in New Zealand (consists of the court president and 8 judges sitting in 3- or 5-judge panels depending on the case)
judge selection and term of office: judges nominated by the Judicial Selection Committee and approved by three-quarters majority of the Parliament; judges appointed for life
subordinate courts: High Court, in New Zealand; Council of Elders or Taupulega

Political parties and leaders


National symbol(s)

tuluma (fishing tackle box); national colors: blue, yellow, white

Political pressure groups and leaders


International organization participation

PIF (associate member), SPC, UNESCO (associate), UPU

Diplomatic representation in the US

none (territory of New Zealand)

Diplomatic representation from the US

none (territory of New Zealand)

Flag description

a yellow stylized Tokelauan canoe on a dark blue field sails toward the manu - the Southern Cross constellation of four, white, five-pointed stars at the hoist side; the Southern Cross represents the role of Christianity in Tokelauan culture and, in conjunction with the canoe, symbolizes the country navigating into the future; the color yellow indicates happiness and peace, and the blue field represents the ocean on which the community relies

National anthem

name: "Te Atua" (For the Almighty)
lyrics/music: unknown/Falani KALOLO
note: adopted 2008; in preparation for eventual self governance, Tokelau held a national contest to choose an anthem; as a territory of New Zealand, "God Defend New Zealand" and "God Save the Queen" are official (see New Zealand)


Economy - overview

Tokelau's small size (three villages), isolation, and lack of resources greatly restrain economic development and confine agriculture to the subsistence level. The principal sources of revenue come from sales of copra, postage stamps, souvenir coins, and

The people rely heavily on aid from New Zealand - about $15 million annually in FY12/13 and FY13/14 - to maintain public services. New Zealand's support amounts to 80% of Tokelau's recurrent government budget. An international trust fund, currently worth

GDP (purchasing power parity)

$1.5 million (1993 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate)


GDP - real growth rate


GDP - per capita (PPP)

$1,000 (1993 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: NA%
industry: NA%
services: NA%

Agriculture - products

coconuts, copra, breadfruit, papayas, bananas; pigs, poultry, goats; fish


small-scale enterprises for copra production, woodworking, plaited craft goods; stamps, coins; fishing

Labor force

440 (2001)

Unemployment rate


Population below poverty line



revenues: $430,800
expenditures: $2.8 million (1987 est.)

Fiscal year

1 April - 31 March

Inflation rate (consumer prices)



$0 (2002 est.)

Exports - commodities

stamps, copra, handicrafts


$969,200 (2002 est.)

Imports - commodities

foodstuffs, building materials, fuel

Exchange rates

New Zealand dollars (NZD) per US dollar -
1.441 (2016 est.)
1.4279 (2015 est.)
1.2039 (2014 est.)
1.2039 (2013 est.)
1.23 (2012 est.)


Crude oil - proved reserves

0 bbl (1 January 2016 es)


Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 300
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 21 (July 2010 est.)

Telephone system

general assessment: modern satellite-based communications system
domestic: radiotelephone service between islands
international: country code - 690; radiotelephone service to Samoa; government-regulated telephone service (TeleTok); satellite earth stations - 3 (2015)

Broadcast media

no TV stations; each atoll operates a radio service that provides shipping news and weather reports (2009)

Internet country code


Internet users

total: 805
percent of population: 60.2% (July 2015 est.)


Ports and terminals

none; offshore anchorage only


Military - note

defense is the responsibility of New Zealand

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

Tokelau included American Samoa's Swains Island (Olosega) in its 2006 draft independence constitution