A lawyer advising the Ongoing Government of Tokelau says United Nations resolutions have largely determined who will vote in a planned referendum on self government.
Tokelau is expected to vote on independence in free association with New Zealand before the end of the year, but the poll is restricted to adults living on the atolls.
That has riled some Tokelauans living in New Zealand who say they have a right to take part.
But Victoria University law professor, Dr Tony Angelo, says the right to decide, as determined by the United Nations resolutions on decolonisation, rests with those who'll have to live with the decision.
"And by and large, the decolonisaton practices of the UN have followed those rules pretty clearly, in other words, you focus on the people who are basically there and are committed to being there - they are going to enjoy or suffer the consequences of the vote."