Nukunonu is the largest atoll within Tokelau, a dependency of New Zealand, in the south Pacific Ocean. It comprises 30 islets surrounding a central lagoon,[2] with about 5.5 km2 (2.1 sq mi) of land area and a lagoon surface area of 109 km2 (42 sq mi). Motuhaga is the only islet that has inhabitants.[citation needed] It has an estimated population of 448.

Satellite image of Nukunonu
Nukunonu is located in Tokelau
Location of Nukunonu Atoll
Nukunonu is located in Oceania
Nukunonu (Oceania)
Nukunonu is located in Pacific Ocean
Nukunonu (Pacific Ocean)
Total islands30
Area5.5 km2 (2.1 sq mi)
Dependent territoryTokelau
Largest settlementNokunonu Village
Faipule (leader)Alipati Tavite[1]
Pulenuku (mayor)Petelo Patelesio[1]
LanguagesTokelauan, English


An arch straddling the main street supports the nave of the Catholic Church

The first European vessel known to have come upon Nukunonu was the Royal Navy ship HMS Pandora, in 1791, whose captain, Edward Edwards, named Duke of Clarence Island[3] in honor of Prince William, Duke of Clarence and St Andrews (1765-1837), the third son of King George III and later king himself, as William IV. At the time, the Pandora was searching for mutineers from HMS Bounty. During the early 19th century, Nukunonu's inhabitants were converted to Roman Catholicism by Samoan missionaries.[2]

Between 1856 and 1979, the United States claimed that it held sovereignty over the island and the other Tokelauan atolls. In 1979, the U.S. conceded that Tokelau was under New Zealand sovereignty, and a maritime boundary between Tokelau and American Samoa was established by the Treaty of Tokehega.[4]


The Luana Liki Hotel
The lagoon

The main settlement on the atoll is located on Nukunonu Island at the southwestern edge of the lagoon with a concrete bridge joining the two areas of settlement. The island's residents depend upon coconuts, pandanus, and marine life for subsistence. Fresh water is scarce; concrete water tanks are incorporated into the bases of newly built houses to collect rainwater from the roofs. Shipping is hampered by the lack of an adequate anchorage.[2] Satellite TV dishes are beginning to appear on some houses in the village.[citation needed]

Tokelau has one hotel, the Luana Liki Hotel, and one resort, Falefa Resort, both situated on Nukunonu. Few tourists visit the country and tourism is not widely promoted. There is ambivalence about tourism, with some Tokelauans wanting to keep the country unaffected by the outside world. Despite this, visitors are greeted with traditional Polynesian hospitality. The Luana Liki Hotel functions mainly to accommodate official visitors, which have included the New Zealand Prime Minister and Governor General. There is one main shop in Nukunonu which sells a limited range of products. Due to the vagaries of shipping schedules, it is at times short of goods.[citation needed]

Local administration consists of a Taupulega (Council of Elders), made up of heads of family groups and two elected members.[2] According to the 2006 census 426 people live on Nukunonu, of which more than 95% belong to the Catholic Church.[5]

The most recent census data show of 2016 show the population at 448. [6]


Important Bird AreaEdit

Some 60 ha of the eastern side of the atoll has been designated an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International because the site supports breeding colonies of brown and black noddies and common white terns, with about 20,000 breeding pairs estimated in 2011.[7]


Coconut (Cocos nucifera) is an important food source here.[8] The Black Rat (Rattus rattus) arrived with European exploration and can take 50% of the yield, but the native Polynesian Rat (R. exulans) will do the same amount of damage anywhere the Black Rat has not become dominant.[8] Rodent control and research on rodent control are important to deal with the problem.[8]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Results are in for the 2023 Tokelau national election". RNZ. 30 January 2023. Retrieved 7 February 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d Nukunonu at the Encyclopædia Britannica
  3. ^ Quanchi, Max (2005). Historical Dictionary of the Discovery and Exploration of the Pacific Islands. The Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0810853957.
  4. ^ Treaty on the delimitation of the maritime boundary between Tokelau and the United States of America (with map), United Nations Treaty Series, 1998.
  5. ^ "2006 Census Tabular Report" (PDF). Retrieved 5 April 2008.
  6. ^ "2016 Census Profile". Retrieved 30 November 2022.
  7. ^ "Nukunonu". BirdLife Data Zone. BirdLife International. 2021. Retrieved 7 March 2021.
  8. ^ a b c

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 9°10′06″S 171°48′35″W / 9.16833°S 171.80972°W / -9.16833; -171.80972