Tokelau is a dependency of New Zealand. The administrator of Tokelau is appointed by the N.Z. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and resides in Wellington. He works through the Tokelau Apia Liaison Office (TALO) or "Tokalani" in Apia, Samoa. The administrator is represented on each island by a faipule (headman), who is elected locally every three years.
All three atolls have a pulenuku (mayor), also elected for a three-year term, who directs nuku (village) activities. Each island has a taupulega (island council) comprised of village elders or heads of families. Each taupulega chooses six delegates to the 21-member General Fono, which meets twice a year (April and October) on alternate islands and has almost complete control over local matters.
In 1993, Tokelau received an added degree of self-government when a three-member Council of Faipule was created to act on behalf of the General Fono between sessions. The new position of Ulu o Tokelau (titular leader) is rotated annually among the three elected faipule, all of whom act as government ministers. In 1994, the powers of the Administrator were delegated to the General Fono and the Council of Faipule, giving Tokelau de facto internal self-government and the right to impose taxes. In 1996, the Parliament of New Zealand amended the Tokelau Islands Act of 1948 to make this system legal. In 2001, control of the public service was turned over to the Council of Faipule.
Rumors about the Tokelau Apia Liaison Office moving from Apia to one of the atolls have circulated for years, with the sticking point being disagreement over which atoll should become the host. Although Fakaofo seems the likely choice, there is great rivalry between the three and little "national" feeling. New Zealand would be happy to grant Tokelau full independence at any time, but there's considerable resistance to this in Tokelau itself where N.Z. aid is the main source of income. The right of free entry to New Zealand is also highly valued.
In a February 2005 referendum supervised by United National personnel, 60 percent of registered voters in Tokelau voted in favor of becoming a constitutional self-governing state in free association with New Zealand. This and a second referendum in October 2007 fell just short of the two-thirds majority required by the General Fono, so Tokelau remains a colonial dependency of New Zealand.