WELLINGTON, New Zealand — According to the World Fact Book and Tokelau’s 2012 Millennium Development Report, there is no data available regarding extreme poverty in Tokelau. The World Bank defines poverty as people living on less than $1.25 a day. Since basic needs such as food, water, education and health are being met, extreme poverty in Tokelau does not exist.
Tokelau is a territory of New Zealand. It relied on New Zealand to govern and support the territory from 1926 to 2004. In 2004, New Zealand delegated all administrative and legislative powers to the Village Council of Elders and authority for issues of national interest to the National Assembly. Tokelau is a self-administering territory of New Zealand.
New Zealand continues to provide aid in the in the amount of $15 million annually to maintain public services. New Zealand also established an international trust fund currently worth almost $58 million giving Tokelau an independent source of revenue.
Additional revenue comes from the export of agricultural products, fish, copra, collectible stamps and coins and handmade mats, bags, hats and fans. Tokelau also has a well-developed tourist industry. Many people living there depend largely on money from family.
Tokelau must meet existing challenges to become an independent and developed country. In Tokelau, economic growth and development are limited not only by the small population but also by the isolated location, lack of infrastructure and inadequate resources.
Tokelau is a small island, about four square miles in size. According to the 2016 census, the population of Tokelau is 1,499 – an increase of 6.2 percent over 2011 census figures placing the population at 1,411. Tokelau is geographically isolated and consists of three small coral atolls – Atafu, Fakaofo, and Nukunonu. Tokelau’s nearest neighbor is Samoa.
The 2012 Tokelau Millennium Development Goal report provides further data regarding poverty in Tokelau:
- Goal 1: Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger
The report indicates that poverty in Tokelau has been eradicated. The median household income was NZD$10,819 in 2011. Resources are distributed equally to all families in the villages. In addition, unemployment levels are low.
- Goal 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education
The report shows this goal has been achieved or is on track to be achieved. All schools provide free and compulsory education for grades 1-11. Almost 100 percent of students complete primary school. Students in grades 12 and 13 can attend free transition and foundation courses.
- Goal 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women
This goal is almost achieved. The 2011 Census shows that equal numbers of girls and boys receive degrees or certificates from secondary schools.
- Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality
This goal has been achieved. Each atoll has a hospital that provides free basic medical and dental care to all citizens. The mortality rate for children under 5 has been zero for five years. The number of children receiving immunizations is 100 percent.
- Goal 5: Improve Maternal Health
This goal has been achieved. No women have died giving birth in the last 5 years. The number of women receiving cervical screenings and breast screenings has increased and with it the chances of early detection and survival.
- Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases
This goal has been achieved. Every citizen was screened in 2010. There is no HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis in Tokelau. The World Health Organization funds programs to detect outbreaks of communicable diseases and monitors water quality.
- Goal 7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability
This goal has not been achieved. A great deal of work needs to be done to increase the proportion of land area covered by native vegetation, reduce biodiversity loss and increase the proportion of fish stocks within safe biological limits.
While the Millennium Development Report indicates that poverty in Tokelau has been eradicated, it seems clear that without the financial assistance provided by New Zealand there would be poverty in Tokelau. In fact, many Tokelauans believe that a move to independence would leave them unable to support themselves.
– Mary Barringer