The Kingdom of Tonga is unique in the South Pacific in being the only country never colonised by a foreign power. It is also the only surviving monarchy in the Pacific with a royal family whose lineage dates back as far as 875AD.

Geography and Population

The Kingdom of Tonga consists of around 176 islands but only 36 of the islands are inhabited. Around two-thirds of Tonga's population lives on the main island of Tongatapu.

There are some active volcanoes including Fonualei, Niuafo'ou, Late and Tofua.

According to the 2016 Census the population is 100,651, with 74 percent living on the main island of Tongatapu.

Tongatapu’s population has increased from 73% in 2011.

The rest of Tonga’s population are spread across the four island groups of Vava'u, Ha'apai, ‘Eua and the Niuas.

The capital is Nuku’alofa and the official language is Tongan.


The economy is sustained by agriculture, fishing and the money sent home by Tongans living abroad, many of them in New Zealand.

Tonga has a small export economy based around exports of fish and agricultural products, as well as tourism.  Money sent home by Tongans living abroad, many of them in New Zealand is also a significant source of revenue.

Tonga’s small size, geographic dispersion and isolation and limited natural resources provide a limited economic opportunities, make it particularly vulnerable to external economic shocks.

Natural Environment and Climate Change

According to theWorld Risk report,  Tonga is one of the world’s countries most at risk of natural disaster.

Tonga is exposed to a range of natural hazards, including cyclones, earthquakes, tsunami, and volcanoes.

Tonga is also extremely vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change. Its geographical, geological and socioeconomic features make it regarded as  a country most at risk to these impacts and risks.

Tropical Cyclone Gita affected almost 75 percent of Tonga's population, equivalent to 80,000 people, and caused damages and losses of $164.1 million, equivalent to 37.8 percent of the country's GDP.


Tonga is the only Pacific country with a constitutional monarchy - officially it is known as the Kingdom of Tonga.  The country made an historic and fundamental change from an executive monarchy to a modern parliamentary democracy in 2010, holding its first fully democratic elections in November that year.

Social issues


Tonga is a conservative Christian country and Tongans are ardent church-goers.

Religion plays a very large part in day-to-day life.

Sunday is celebrated as a strict Sabbath, enshrined in the constitution.

Shopping is banned on Sundays - with only essential services exempt.


Tonga has a relatively young population, with a median age of 22 years. More than one third (39%) of the population is aged 15 years and younger, while only 9% are 60 years and older.


Women account for 43% of income earners in subsistence farming and in work for pay and operating their own business. 

There is a significant salary and income gap under which Tongan women earn on average only 47 percent of what men earn.

Tonga scored 98 in the World’s Human Development Index 2018 compared to NZ’s 16th place.