2006 Tokelauan self-determination referendum

The Tokelau self-determination referendum of 2006, supervised by the United Nations,[1] was held from February 11 to February 15, 2006. The defeated proposal would have changed Tokelau's status from an unincorporated New Zealand territory to a self-governing state in free association with New Zealand, akin to the Cook Islands and Niue.

After 581 of the 615 eligible voters cast a proper ballot (3 ruined ballots were also cast), the referendum fell 38 votes short of the two-thirds majority required to succeed in a change of status.[2]

The majority of Tokelauans reside in New Zealand, and were ineligible to vote in the referendum, in line with standard practice in United Nations mandated votes on self-determination. However concerns among this community may have influenced those who were eligible to vote, thereby contributing to the referendum's failure.[3]

The passage of the referendum would have removed Tokelau from the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, as the Cook Islands and Niue were removed from this list when they were granted self-governance in 1965 and 1974, respectively.

Outgoing Tokelau Ulu (head of government) Pio Tuia suggested in February 2006 that since the vote failed to pass by such a small margin, the issue was likely to be revisited in a few years' time.[4] In June 2006, his successor Kolouei O'Brien announced that the Fono had agreed to hold a similar referendum again in late 2007 or early 2008;[5] in the end, it was decided to hold a second referendum on self-determination in October 2007.[6]

An unintended result of the United Nations' recent efforts to promote decolonization in Tokelau has been the re-emergence of a Tokelauan claim to Swains Island, which is legally part of American Samoa, hitherto a somewhat dormant issue.

Voting scheduleEdit

Date Location
February 11 Apia, Samoa (Special overseas voting)
February 13 Atafu atoll
February 14 Nukunonu atoll
February 15 Fakaofo atoll


The proposal: "Do you agree that Tokelau become a self-governing state in Free Association with New Zealand on the basis of the Constitution and as in the draft Treaty notified to Tokelau? ".

Tokelauan self-determination referendum, 2006
Choice Votes %
  Against 232 39.93
For 349 60.07
Required majority 66.67
Valid votes 581 99.49
Invalid or blank votes 3 0.51
Total votes 584 100.00
Registered voters and turnout 615 94.96


  1. ^ Tait, Maggie (10 Feb 2006). "New Zealand's last colony to vote on future". NZHerald.
  2. ^ "Tokelau referendum does not produce a two thirds majority in favour of a change of status". New Zealand Government. 16 Feb 2006. Archived from the original on 14 May 2006.
  3. ^ "Tokelau leaders confident of stronger backing for next referendum on self determination". Radio New Zealand International. 13 March 2007.
  4. ^ "Outgoing Tokelau Boss Keen For New Referendum". TMCnet. 16 Feb 2006.
  5. ^ "Tokelau plans another referendum on self-determination". Radio New Zealand International. 5 June 2006.
  6. ^ "Decolonization United Nations success story, but task not yet complete, Fourth Committee told as debate begins" (Press release). United Nations. 2 October 2006. Retrieved 2007-03-14.