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Tonga (the Kingdom of Tonga) is a Polynesian archipelago of 169 islands (36 inhabited) dispersed over 700,000 sq kms of the south Pacific. Fiji is to the northwest, Samoa to the north and New Zealand to the south. Around 70% of the population live on Tongatapu.
The islands were probably first inhabited 3,500 years ago during the migration of the Lapitan Austronesian people eastwards from Southeast Asia. By the 12th century the Tuʻi Tonga empire had significant influence across the south Pacific but civil wars in the 15th and 17th centuries damaged its power base.
The first landing by Europeans was in 1616 when a Dutch vessel made a short trade visit. Captain Cook landed in 1773, naming them the Friendly Islands after which missionaries began arriving. In 1845 the country was united as a kingdom and it was declared a constitutional monarchy 30 years later.
In 1900, when settlers and rival chiefs tried to remove the second king, Tonga became a protected state under a Treaty of Friendship with the UK. It maintained its sovereignty and eventually became fully independent in 1970.
Tonga's economy depends on overseas worker’s remittances. Agriculture, forestry and fisheries are the key employers. The royal family dominates the financial and telecom sectors.
Tonga’s 169 islands are divided into three groups, Vava'u, Ha'apai, and Tongatapu, stretching for 800 kms from north to south. The largest island is Tongatapu, representing about one quarter of the total land area of the country.
The Tongan islands are either full coral reefs built up on uplifted oceanic crust, or volcanoes with fringing reefs. There are 2 parallel chains of islands. The western islands represent the volcanic arc created during subduction at the Tonga Trench. They sit on the edge of the Indo-Australian plate. The eastern islands, east of the volcanic arc and Tongan Trench, are mostly limestones and sit above a ridge of Pacific oceanic crust. The area is volcanically active as evidenced by a huge eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano in January 2022 just 65kms north of the capital which caused a tsunami and ash fall..
This geology is not suitable for the generation and accumulation of commercial volumes of oil and gas. Thus Tonga has no identified indigenous oil or gas resources, either onshore or offshore, and Globalshift believes it is unlikely to achieve any production in the future. No exploration wells have ever been drilled in the territory.
Map and National Flag
A black bird
Land area (sq kms)
Oil prod (000s b/d)
Gas prod (bcm/yr)
Oil cons (000s b/d)
Gas cons (bcm/yr)
Tonga is a constitutional monarchy with a powerful and wealthy family. The King is Head of State and the Prime Minister is appointed by the King from the members of Parliament. Executive power is vested in the Cabinet of Ministers.
Legislative power is vested in the King in Parliament.The Legislative Assembly is composed of 9 representatives of the Nobles and 17 representatives of the people.
There is no department of government in Tonga specifically responsible for oil and gas resources.
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