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Tokelau is located about 500km north of Samoa and is home to around 1,600 people. It is part of the Realm of New Zealand and its people are New Zealand citizens. There are more than 8,600 Tokelauans living in New Zealand.

Tokelau has three atolls:

  • Atafu

  • Nukunonu

  • Fakaofo

Tokelau is a non-self-governing territory of New Zealand. However, it has its own political institutions, judicial system, public services (including telecommunications and shipping), and full control of its budget.

Tokelau has a unique political structure. The position of Ulu-o-Tokelau, the Titular Head of Government, is rotated annually between the leader (Faipule) of each atoll. The General Fono (national legislative body) meets three times a year and is made up of elected representatives from each atoll.

New Zealand assists the Government of Tokelau to provide essential public services and infrastructure for its people and to develop its economy and capacity for self-governance.

The relationship between Tokelau and New Zealand is led by the Administrator of Tokelau. This is a statutory position held by a New Zealand public servant, and appointed by the New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade, NZ

Note: Population data has been updated to 2018 Census figures.

A fourth atoll Olohega (Swains Island), has traditionally and culturally been considered part of Tokelau, but was annexed by the United States in 1925.

Note that some facts and figures on this page may conflict, but the source of the information has been provided.  Videos are embedded from YouTube and Facebook and may take a moment to load.

Tokelau National Anthem

Te Atua o Tokelau
Te Atua o nuku, te Atua o Tokelau
Fakamanuia mai ia Tokelau
Puipui tauhi mai ko ito filemu
Toku fenua, tau aganuku
Tau fuka ke agiagia
Lototahi, tumau hi to fakavae
Tokelau mo te atua
Te Atua o Tokelau
(Spoken) Hoa, he hoa lava


Atafu is composed of 42 islands and lies in lat. 8° 33’ 30" S and long. 172° 30’W. Atafu is the smallest atoll in the group extending three miles north and south and 2.5 miles east and west, and having  a land area of 550 acres.


The highest land of Atafu is 15 feet above sea level. The present population is around 400.

Atafu was the ancient name given to the atoll by its earliest inhabitants, and these people were forced to abandon the island and some were killed during the era of warring period between the Islands of Tokelau.

On June 21, 1765, Byron discovered Atafu and discovered no sign of inhabitants.


Tonuia (from Fakaofo) and his wife Lagimaina (from Nukunonu) along with their seven children established Atafu. The Fale Fitu, or Seven Houses signifies Atafu because of their ancestral origin.


The Presbyterian Church is the only church in Atafu since its introduction by Faivalua in 1858.

Source: Government of Tokelau.

Video: Drone footage is used with the kind permission of Te Papa.



A fourth island that is culturally, historically, and geographically, but not politically, part of the Tokelau chain is Swains Island (Olohega or Olosega), under United States control since about 1900 and administered as part of American Samoa since 1925.

The island was claimed by the United States pursuant to the Guano Islands Act as were the other three islands of Tokelau, which claims were ceded to Tokelau by treaty in 1979. In the draft constitution of Tokelau subject to the Tokelauan self-determination referendum in 2006, Olohega is claimed as part of Tokelau, a claim surrendered in the same 1979 treaty which established a boundary between American Samoa and Tokelau.


Tokelau's claim to Swains is generally comparable to the Marshall Islands' claim to US-administered Wake Island, but the re-emergence of this somewhat dormant issue has been an unintended result of the United Nations' recent efforts to promote decolonization in Tokelau.

Basically, Tokelauans have proved somewhat reluctant to push their national identity in the political realm: recent decolonization moves have mainly been driven from outside for ideological reasons. But at the same time, Tokelauans are reluctant to disown their common cultural identity with Swains Islanders who speak their language.

Source: Government of Tokelau


In May 2022, the Tokelau General Fono said it wanted to progress the question of Tokelau's self-determination by 2025/26, and by then have come up with a "strategy for Olohega".  

See more about Olohega on this website 

Drone Footage is owned by Six84 Media

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Tokelau Flag (2009)

Tokelau's new flag was raised outside New Zealand's parliament for the first time in 2009.  Tagata Pasifika and members of the Atafu Tokelau Community Group were on hand to witness the occasion.

See video of the first time the flag was raised in Tokelau on 22 October 2009.


Fakaofo lies 9' 38'S and 171' 25'W, and is the southernmost atoll of Tokelau. It consists of 62 islets measuring 4sq kms and its lagoon is 50sq km.

According to the 2006 Census, Fakaofo has a population of 483 with 29% being between 10 -19 years of age.

There are two settlements on Fakaofo. Fale the main settlement is towards the western side of the atoll, housing the majority of the population. Two kilometres to the west of Fale is the relatively larger Fenuafala where a second settlement was established in 1960 to relieve the growing population. Fenuafala is now also home to the Fakaofo hospital, Tialeniu School as well as Teletok, Tokelau's telecommunications provider.

Fakaofo has three churches to cater for its two practising religions, Catholic and Protestants. Of its total population 70% are Protestants and 22% are Catholics.

The Taupulega is the governing body on Fakaofo and it is made up of invited toeainas - elders.

Source: Government of Tokelau

Video: Drone footage is used with the kind permission of Te Papa.



 Nukunonu is the largest atoll within Tokelau, a dependency of New Zealand, in the south Pacific Ocean. It comprises 30 islets surrounding a central lagoon, with about 5.5 km2 (2.1 sq mi) of land area and a lagoon surface area of 109 km2 (42 sq mi).

On the atoll of Nukunonu, there are two main settlements: Fale (Village) and Motuhaga. These two settlements are joined together by a "concrete Bridge."

Beautifully situated on the southern-western edge of the lagoon, the landscape of Fale (Village) settlement is uniquely structured. Each house is built on a "Square" land plot where four stoned-roads surround each house.


There are three main roads in the village settlement namely: Ala Gatai (Lagoon Road): Ala Loto (Middle Road): and Ala Tua (Ocean Road). Motuhaga is a recent settlement where the "St Joseph" hospital is located.

According to the 2006 census 426 people live on Nukunonu; 242 men and 184 women.  This is compared with the 2001 census of 361 people on Nukunonu; 194 men and 167 women.

Source: Wikipedia & Government of Tokelau

Video: Drone footage is used with the kind permission of Te Papa.


The Realm of New Zealand

New Zealand is an independent sovereign nation. Because it is a monarchy, New Zealand is called a "Realm."  The Realm of New Zealand comprises New Zealand, Tokelau, the Ross Dependency and the self-governing states of the Cook Islands and Niue.

The Governor-General is the representative of the Head of State of New Zealand. The office and powers of the Governor-General are set out in the Letters Patent Constituting the Office of Governor-General of New Zealand.  Her Excellency The Rt Hon Dame Cindy Kiro (pictured) was sworn in as the 22nd Governor-General of New Zealand on 21 September 2021.

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