Ulu o Tokelau pays special tribute to Samoa for Tokelau repatriation

17.03.21, Atafu, Tokelau – Newly inaugurated Ulu o Tokelau, Hon Kelihiano Kalolo has paid a special tribute to the
Government and people of Samoa for their role in the successful repatriation of more than 100 Tokelau students,
patients and families that were stranded overseas due to COVID-19.

“Words are not enough to express our heartfelt fakafetai to the people and government Samoa. They accommodated
our requests at a time when they were also desperate to bring their own citizens home. They gave up space reserved
for their citizens and resources such as beds in their managed isolation, lab tests for COVID-19. 

“Without this generosity, our people would not have been able to make it home,” stated Hon Kalolo. 

“Again, my personal fa’afetai to the Tuilaepa government for the love they continue to show the people of Tokelau.
Fakafetai lahi lele.”

At his inauguration last week, Hon Kalolo, also the Minister of Education, shared his personal experience on the
repatriation effort that involved many other people and organisations.

“I remember well this time last year. It was Wednesday, 12 March, the second day of the General Fono at Fakaofo,”
he said. “It was the day we were notified that the World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
The news caused an emotional shock to our nation with the first thought on everyone’s mind, ‘we must bring our
scholarship students home’.”

Tokelau scholars were scattered across the Pacific: Vanuatu; Suva, Fiji; New Zealand, Hamilton, Wellington,
Invercargill; Australia, Melbourne, Victoria; and Samoa.

“And as I take on the Uluship 12-months since that pandemic declaration, I am so pleased to report that the collective
efforts by our Tokelau officials and friends of Tokelau have been successful in bringing home our students and

“I would also like to acknowledge at this point, Faipule Fofo Tuisano for guiding us through such a challenging year.
As a first time elected leader and to be responsible for a country in a once in a generation event like this successfully,
we commend your tireless commitment, your courage, and exceptional leadership. We are one of only a few in the
world that is COVID-free. Tutia!” 

He provided more details describing the work as “hugely complex and an expensive undertaking.” 

Complex with many moving parts requiring a coordinated effort under huge time pressures as governments moved to
close their borders forcing airlines and travel services to shut down. 

He praised the cross sectoral collaboration between Tokelau’s three Taupulega Offices and national public service
the Office of the Council (OCOG), Health, Education, Transport, Support Services and Finance.

Outside of Tokelau he singled out two for special mention: the small Tokelau Desk Unit at the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs supporting the Administrator of Tokelau’s Office in Wellington; and Reverend Iutana Pue in South

“The Administrator and his office are gratefully acknowledged for the tremendous and tireless work on navigating
the border restrictions, immigration protocols, health regulations, and health services that enabled a group of our
students to arrive in New Zealand and be well cared for under the auspices of Pasifika Medical Association. 

“Reverend Iutana Pue who took on the role of Coordinator to liaise between various agencies, the community, the
students and ourselves [Tokelau Education Department]. He is gratefully acknowledged for his unreserved support
that ranged from high level inter-agency talks to even driving to deliver student allowances in New Zealand, and
Auckland in particular. Fakafetai lahi for the care given to our students.”

A COVID-19 summary report, and a proposed vaccine roll out plan for Tokelau was tabled at last week’s General
Fono. The vaccine roll-out and schedule is currently being discussed between Tokelau and New Zealand government

For more information contact: Mr Aukusitino Vitale, GM, National, Office of the Council for the Ongoing
Government of Tokelau | Email: tino.vitale@tokelau.org.nz

This is the second year of the Tenth National Government of Tokelau - the first was established in 1993.
The list of Ulu-o-Tokelau:
1993 Salesio Lui (Nukunonu)
1994 Keli Neemia (Fakaofo)
1995 Lepaio Simi (Atafu)
1996 Pio Tuia (Nukunonu)
1997 Falima Teao (Fakaofo)
1998 Kuresa Nasau (Atafu)
1999 Pio Tuia (Nukunonu)
2000 Kolouei O'Brien (Fakaofo)
2001 Kuresa Nasau (Atafu)
2002 Pio Tuia (Nukunonu)
2003 Kolouei O'Brien (Fakaofo)
2004 Kuresa Nasau / Patuki Isaako (Atafu)
2005 Pio Tuia (Nukunonu)
2006 Kolouei O'Brien (Fakaofo)
2007 Kuresa Nasau (Atafu)
2008 Pio Tuia (Nukunonu)
2009 Foua Toloa (Fakaofo)
2010 Kuresa Nasau (Atafu)
2011 Foua Toloa (Fakaofo)
2012 Kelihiano Kalolo (Atafu)
2013 Salesio Lui (Nukunonu)
2014 Kuresa Nasau (Atafu)
2015 Siopili Perez (Nukunonu)
2016 Afega Gaualofa (Fakaofo)
2017 Siopili Perez (Nukunonu)
2018 Afega Gaualofa (Fakaofo)
2019 Kelihiano Kalolo (Atafu)
2020 Fofo Filipo Tuisano (Fakaofo)
2021 Kelihiano Kalolo (Atafu)


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. Departing from Apia it takes 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 318,000 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 its 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 although work on an airstrip to be located on Nukunonu is in progress. Currently,
access is by ship only, through the Port of Apia, Samoa.

There are approximately 8000 Tokelauans living in New Zealand, and smaller communities live in Australia,
American Samoa, Samoa, Rapa Nui, and Hawaii.