Tokelau (New Zealand)

Tokelau is an island territory of New Zealand in Southeast Asia that is sometimes referred to as the Union Islands. The United Nations declared it a non-self-governing territory in 2007. Tokelau is officially known as a  nation by both its government and New Zealand’s government. The land area is approximately 10 km2 (4 sq mi) and the population is approximately 1,400. Its capital rotates yearly between the three atolls.The most spoken language in the country is Tokelauan.

Many in this country are immigrants, and the population continues to decrease in population. The average life expectancy is 69 years old. Villages are entitled to enact their own laws regulating their daily lives and New Zealand law only applies where it has been extended by specific enactment. Serious crime is rare and there are no prisons — offenders are publicly rebuked, fined or made to work. The head of state is Elizabeth II, the Queen in right of New Zealand, who also reigns over Australia, the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms. The Queen is represented in the territory by an acting Administrator. A chairperson presides over the Council for the Ongoing Government of Tokelau, which functions as a cabinet. The Council consists of the faipule (leader) and pulenuku (village mayor) of each of the three atolls.  The Administrator is appointed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of New Zealand, and the office of Head of Government rotates between the three faipule for a one-year term.

Tokelau is a leader in renewable energy. Also, it’s original vegetation has been replaced by coconut plantations, some of which have become abandoned and turned into forests. The atolls are very diverse in wildlife and it is a shark sanctuary.  Fishing, shipping and farming are still very important. Tokelau also exports handicrafts, stamps, woodworking, and coins.  It is almost completely dependent on the New Zealand government because its economy is so small. Many Tokelauans live in New Zealand and support their families in Tokelau through remittances. There is no airport there either.

Here are some tips for those planning to live or do business on the islands:

        1. Historically, the culture was very communal and governed by clans. Family ties, saving face, and sticking up for the clan are still very important.
        2.  Tokelauans are now one of the most socio-economically deprived Pacific groups. This is very significant in its impact on the culture’s perception of itself.
        3.  Western and traditional cultural ideals are embraced. The society was based on animistic traditions, but now it has become more of a mix.
        4. Community and respect and care for the elderly are very important.  Children are raised by the community. Families often live with their extended families.
        5. Chivalry in the best sense is practiced in many families, and respect for self and others is encouraged.
        6. Money is seen as being important but not the most important thing in life.
        7. An egalitarian ethic overrides differentials in wealth. Rich people contribute generously to village and family enterprises and avoid ostentatious displays of affluence.
        8. Virtually all residents enter into sanctified, lifelong monogamous marital unions. Individual choice is constrained by kin group exogamy.
        9. Anamism and Fundamentalist Christianity (Catholic and Protestant) are the most popular religions. Sometimes syncretism between the two are practiced.

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©Allison J. Weaver Consulting, LLC 2017


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