Water (Climate Change Consequences)


Tokelau is group of three low-lying coral atolls (Atafu, Fakaofo, Nukunonu) enclosing large lagoons in the South Pacific Ocean, about one-half of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand. The lagoons are surrounded by a number of reef-bound islets of varying length and rising to over 3 m above sea level.

A self-administering territory of New Zealand, Tokelau is home to nearly 1,400 people.

Its major environmental issues include limited natural resources and overcrowding which are contributing to emigration to New Zealand.

Tokelau lies in Pacific typhoon belt.

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.

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


Location: 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

Area: 12 sq km

Coastline: 101 km

Maritime Claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

Natural Hazards: lies in Pacific typhoon belt

Terrain: low-lying coral atolls enclosing large lagoons.  The highest point is an unnamed location 5 m.

Climate:  tropical; moderated by trade winds (April to November)

At roughly 8 km (5 mi) wide, Atafu Atoll is the smallest of three atolls comprising Tokelau. The primary settlement on Atafu is a village located at the northwestern corner of the atoll - indicated by an area of light gray dots in the left part of the photograph above. The typical ring shape of the atoll is the result of coral reefs building up around a former volcanic island. Over geologic time, the central volcano subsided beneath the water surface, leaving the fringing reefs and a central lagoon that contains submerged coral reefs.

Ecology and Biodiversity

Ecologically, Tokelau is included within the Western Polynesian tropical moist forests ecoregion. Which covers the Phoenix Islands, Tokelau, Tuvalu and Howland and Baker Islands.

People and Society

Population: 1,368 (July 2012 est.)

Ethnic Groups: Polynesian

Age Structure:

0-14 years: 42%
15-64 years: 53%
65 years and over: 5% (2009 est.)

Population Growth Rate: -0.011% (2012 est.)

Languages: Tokelauan (a Polynesian language), English


Dependency Status: self-administering territory of New Zealand.

Capital: none; each atoll has its own administrative center

Legal System:   accepts compulsory International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction; and accepts International criminal court (ICCt) jurisdiction


Tokelau's small size (three villages), isolation, and lack of resources greatly restrain economic development and confine agriculture to the subsistence level.

The people rely heavily on aid from New Zealand - about $10 million annually in 2008 and 2009 - to maintain public services. New Zealand's support amounts to 80% of Tokelau's recurrent government budget.

An international trust fund, currently worth nearly US$32 million, was established in 2004 to provide Tokelau an independent source of revenue. The principal sources of revenue come from sales of copra, postage stamps, souvenir coins, and handicrafts.

Money is also remitted to families from relatives in New Zealand.

GDP: (Purchasing Power Parity): $1.5 million (1993 est.)

GDP- per capita (PPP):  $1,000 (1993 est.)

Agricultural products: coconuts, copra, breadfruit, papayas, bananas; pigs, poultry, goats; fish

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

Currency: New Zealand dollars (NZD)




Agency, C. (2012). Tokelau. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/51cbf2217896bb431f6a7f48


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