Our relationship with Tuvalu

Tuvalu is one of the smallest independent states in the world, with a population of 11,000 and a land area of only 26 square kilometres spread across nine low-lying islands and atolls. It has an exclusive economic zone of 900,000 square kilometres.  Tuvalu is particularly vulnerable to extreme weather and climate change, and it has become a vocal advocate for global action on climate change.

New Zealand and Tuvalu share common interests around issues in the Pacific, and work together on regional and international issues including climate change, renewable energy, fisheries, labour and employment. Tuvaluans are eligible to apply for New Zealand residency under the Pacific Access Category (as well as through general immigration categories). There are approximately 3,500 Tuvaluans living in New Zealand.

Tuvalu was once known as the Ellis Islands, Ellice Islands, as part of the Gilbert and Ellice Group. Following a 1976 referendum, it separated from the Gilbert Islands (now Kiribati) and became known as Tuvalu. In 1978 Tuvalu declared independence from Great Britain.

Tuvalu joined the United Nations in 2000. 

Vital Statistics

Population 11,097 (2016)
Age under 25 years 49%
Average life expectancy 68/64
Exports AU$20m (2016)
Remittances 11.9% of GDP (2016)
Foreign Aid 89.2% of GNI (2015)
GDP US$34.2m (2016)
GDP per capita US$3,084 (2016)
GDP growth 2.7% (2016)




Trade and economic links

Tuvalu’s main sources of income are from fishing licence fees (48.5% of domestic revenues in the 2017 budget), revenue from the dot tv internet domain (13.7% of domestic revenues in the 2017 budget), and foreign grants. Government budgets can be supplemented by the income earned from the Tuvalu Trust Fund. Tuvalu’s major trading partners are Fiji, Australia, and New Zealand. Trade in goods between New Zealand and Tuvalu is modest.

NZ exports to Tuvalu

NZ$3.9m (2016)

NZ imports from Tuvalu

NZ$23,000 (2016)

A significant source of private income is remittances from Tuvaluans working overseas. Tuvaluans come to New Zealand to work in our horticulture and wine industries under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) (external link) scheme. Eighty RSE workers worked in New Zealand in 2016/17.

The Tuvalu Trust Fund

The Tuvalu Trust Fund was set up in October 1987 with contributions from Australia, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Tuvalu and the United Kingdom. From an initial capital investment of AUD26.4 million, by 2017, it was valued at AUD $169 million. In that time it has distributed over AUD$154 million to Government to cover budget shortfalls, underpin economic development and support financial autonomy for the country. Today, Tuvalu is the largest contributor, with successive governments maintaining the capital value of the Fund.

Aid and development

The New Zealand Aid Programme works with Tuvalu on initiatives that support sustainable economic growth, improve financial management and increase Tuvalu’s resilience to climate change.

Find out more about our aid programme in Tuvalu


  • New Zealand is represented in Tuvalu through the New Zealand-based High Commissioner, Linda Te Puni.
  • Tuvalu is represented in New Zealand by the High Commission of Tuvalu, Wellington .

Recent official visits

New Zealand to Tuvalu
  • 2016: Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon Murray McCully, and Minister for Climate Change Issues, Hon Paula Bennett, visited Tuvalu during the New Zealand European Union Mission to the Pacific on 1-5 June
  • 2014: Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully visited Tuvalu as part of the Pacific Energy Mission
  • 2012: Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully visited Tuvalu, Marshall Islands and Kiribati
  • 2010: NZ Defence Force and MFAT disaster planning and response exercise, Exercise Tropic Twilight, was held in Tuvalu
Tuvalu to New Zealand
  • 2017: PM Sopoaga visited NZ in May and met with Minister Brownlee, Minister McClay and Minister Woodhouse.  He also attended the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) 10 year anniversary celebrations in early July.
  • 2016: Minister of Natural Resources, Dr Puakena Boreham, visited New Zealand for the Pacific Parliamentary Forum in November
  • 2016: Prime Minister Sopoaga visited New Zealand in June for the Pacific Energy Conference
  • 2016: Foreign Affairs, Tourism, Environment and Labour Minister Finikaso visited New Zealand in March
  • 2015: Prime Minister Sopoaga and Foreign Minister Finikaso visited Wellington for the opening of the Tuvalu High Commission
  • 2011: A delegation from the Parliament of Tuvalu visited as part of the annual inter-parliamentary programme. The delegation included Speaker Rt Hon Sir Kamatu Latasi, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports Hon Dr Falesa Pitoi, Minister of Natural Resources Hon Isaia Taeia Italeli and Minister of Health Hon Taom Tanukale


News & Events