Proverb sums up historic court case for Tokelau leaders

The traditional Tokelau saying, ‘Taeao fakatiu te matagi’ describes today’s sailing from Apia to Tokelau for members of the Council of Ongoing Government. A feeling of confidence that a better future awaits just over the horizon.

Headed by Ulu o Tokelau, Hon Afega Gaualofa they will sail the 28-hour journey carrying news of last week’s historic Tokelau High Court hearing in Wellington, New Zealand.

“‘Taeao fakatiu te matagi’, tomorrow the wind changes is our Tokelauan saying for good wind to sail on -  move on to prosper as we return to Tokelau” explains Mr Gaualofa.

“It is a saying that best describes our feelings as we head home to our elders, Taupulega and families. About how grateful we are to their support during this long drawn-out process that has impacted us in many ways. Feelings that irrespective of the outcome of this court case, ‘tomorrow the wind changes’ granting us a new opportunity to move forward united as a nation. To become stronger by staying true to our fakaTokelau.

“More importantly we are carrying the news to the General Fono and Taupulega who have been awaiting the outcome of this long process. ”

In a statement, Mr Gaualofa paid tribute to the support of the three villages, the judiciary, Administrator of Tokelau and their legal team .

On behalf of the council, firstly, our prayers of thanks to our Father in heaven for his continued blessings in guiding us through a very significant and historic matter for our small country, Tokelau.

I wish to pay acknowledgement to our Tokelau communities both in Aotearoa and back home for the support, prayers and well wishes to allow the hearing to proceed peacefully.  This is a case that Tokelau will learn from in its forward march to a better future.

To the Hon Judge and the official staff of the High Courts for their respect to the laws of Tokelau that enable a smooth historic Tokelau high court hearing in Wellington.

To the Administrator of Tokelau and his legal team and officials for their strong support to our preparation for this long drawn out hearing.

To our legal team Richard Fowler {QC} and Su’a Hellene Wallwork for the tireless work and user friendly approach that made such a daunting task so simple in understanding the laws and calming our nerves for a first time for me and my colleagues in Council to appear in the High Court of Tokelau.  And to our elder Faipule who travelled and continue to remind us of our faka-Tokelau of respect.


For more information contact: Aukusitino Vitale, General Manager, National| Mobile: +685 7703375 | 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 relationshiphailed 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.