Tokelau’s economic summit talanoa ‘Small is Sustainable’

The first national economic summit for Tokelau was officially opened yesterday.

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Hosted by its northern most atoll of Atafu, Honorable Kelihiano Kalolo in his keynote address spoke in glowing
terms about his country’s beauty and pristine biodiversity that gives life to their cultural heritage and identity.

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As minister for both Economic Development; and Natural Resources and Environment his message to
delegates was to come up with a range of ideas, practical experiences, aspirations and innovations on how
best to unite the two parts of his portfolio in order to achieve sustainable development in the context of

The summit a culmination of six months planning is “an endeavour to take stock and explore ways to use our
meagre resources to improve the quality of life of Tokelau’s people in a sustainable manner,” he said.

The Tokelau context of sustainable development is maintaining a small and beautiful environment by living
within its means and maximising opportunities available for socio-economic progress and achievement. This
is encapsulated in the Summit theme: Small is Sustainable. And highlighted by the traditional welcome for
summit delegates at the Atafu pier on arrival yesterday.

The Pacific cultural communications tool of Talanoa is used as the central tool to tease out solutions from the
interactions, networking and connections from representatives from Fakaofo, Nukunonu, Atafu, members of
the Tokelau legislature, Tokelau Government Departments and its partners and stakeholders during the three
days of the summit.

Guest speaker, former judge Tagaloa Enoka Fereti Puni is currently the only Pacific islander that is a Legal
Consultant to the judiciary in the region.

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Responding to a request from organisers, he spoke about his life story to illustrate the importance of moemitiga
(dreams) to drive one’s life journey.

Using a language mixture of Tokelauan, Tuvaluan and predominantly Samoan, the entire goal of Tagaloa’s
talanoa was to isolate and highlight two important factors that underpin economic development success: Invest
in people development; and education.

The importance of Tagaloa’s lifestory highlighted the relevance of his journey as it is generic to the Pacific
islands. Born into a life with little money but rich in culture, innovation and taking whatever challenges life offers
in stride. From riding the coconut trading boats in the Gilbert and Ellice islands before he was 10-years old, to
living in a Fijian bure with muddied water channels during the rainy season, to milking cows and driving taxis in
New Zealand to look after and support his younger siblings education – it was familiar, it was authentic, it is life
as Polynesians know it.

Tagaloa’s hope that his story will inspire the Tokelauan community to invest more and improve more the
education of its people.

Other overseas presenters included Ms Nisha from UNESCO, Muliagatele Georgina Bonin from UNDP, Masuisui
J.R. Pereira of Molida and Matson Shipping, Leaupepe Esera Poliko from Samoa’s Business and Enterprise Centre.

The summit is organized by the Department of Economic Development Natural Resources & Environment
(DoEDNRE) and proposed to be an annual event and a core activity of the department’s Annual Work Plan.

For more information contact: Mika Perez, Director DoEDNRE | Email:


Tokelau is a non-self- governing territory of New Zealand. It is located in the Pacific Ocean north of Samoa
and south of the Equator (9 00 S, 172 00 W). It is only accessible by boat, taking an estimated 28hours to
reach the closest atoll, Fakaofo, a further three hours to Nukunonu, and another six hours to Atafu.

It is made up of the three small atolls named above, separated from each other by high seas. The total land
area is approximately 12 km². The total sea area of the exclusive economic zone is approximately 518,000
km². The height above sea level is between 3-5 meters, the maximum width is 200 meters. Tokelau is
therefore particularly vulnerable to natural disasters and impacts of climate change such as sea-level rise.

The people of Tokelau are New Zealand citizens. Their relationship hailed by the United Nations as a model
for other territories and administering countries to follow.

The population of 1499 (2016 census) is spread approximately equally among the three atolls (Atafu (541);
Fakaofo (506) and Nukunonu (452). The traditional lifestyle was subsistence but Tokelau has moved to a
cash economy. The only natural resource of any current economic significance is the fishery of the exclusive
economic zone.

Tokelau has no main town; each island has its own administrative centre, hospital, school and basic
infrastructure. There are no airstrips or harbours. Access is by ship only, through the Port of Apia, Samoa.

There are approximately 7000 Tokelauans living in New Zealand, and smaller communities live in Australia,
American Samoa, Samoa, Rapa Nui, and Hawaii.