Subdivisions of French Polynesia

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Sorin Cosoveanu sent me a link to source [4], which has (as it turns out) preliminary 2012 census data, and then source [9], which has the final results. I replaced the former with the latter in the table below.

Clipperton Island has been placed directly under the administration of the French Overseas Ministry. Technically, it is now a public domain of the French state (domaine public de l'État français, propriété domaniale de l’Etat). As such, it is part of France, but not part of any other subdivision of France. Since it has no permanent inhabitants, I have exercised my editorial prerogatives by listing it here, and not as part of France itself.

Paraskevas Renesis writes that the status of French Polynesia was changed from territoire d'outre-mer (overseas territory) to pays d'outre-mer (overseas country) by Law 2004-192 of 2004-02-27, signed by the president on 2004-03-01. Source [3] gives the date 2003-12-18. At source [2], the U.M.P. Party specifies the more precise title "pays d'outre-mer au sein de la République" (overseas country in the bosom of the Republic), and says that the assembly passed the measure on 2004-01-15. The French Yahoo! News says that Parliament passed the measure on 2004-01-29. I suppose that each of the dates represents a different stage in the process, and that the effective date is the latest one, 2004-03-01. The effect of this change is to give French Polynesia an additional degree of autonomy.

Sources disagree about the capital of Tuamotu and Gambier Islands. The book "Administrative Subdivisions of Countries" said that the capital was Rangiroa, on Rangiroa Island, in the Tuamotu group. Many sources say that it's Rikitea, on Mangareva Island, although some of them refer to Rikitea as the capital of only the Gambier Islands. The most official source I could find was INSEE (source [5]), which says that the provisional administrative seat of Tuamotu and Gambier Islands is Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia.

The primary divisions of French Polynesia used to be known as circonscriptions. In recent documents, they are called subdivisions administratives. It may be that the new status was created by a change in the basic law which took place on 1999-03-19. On the same occasion, the status of the secondary divisions was supposedly changed from communes to circonscriptions territoriales.

The results of the census of French Polynesia, taken on 1996-09-03, have been published. They are shown in the table below.

Errata: In the main table for French Polynesia on page 136, two digits were transposed in the population of Marquesas Islands. The correct figure should be 7,358. This makes the total 1988 population of French Polynesia come to 188,814. (My source also had the digits transposed.)

The postal codes for French Polynesia have the form F-987xx, an extension of the French system. (The book contained a typo in the code.)

Country overview: 

ISO codePF
LanguagesFrench (fr), Tahitian
Time zone-10 (see note)


Formed in 1903 under the name French Establishments in Oceania (Établissements français de l'Océanie), by uniting several French colonies. In 1946, its status changed to overseas territory. In 1957, it was renamed French Polynesia.

Time zone note: the Marquesas Islands are in the -9:30 time zone; the Gambier Islands, -9. However, the majority of the Tuamotu and Gambier Islands subdivision is in the -10 time zone.

Other names of country: 

  1. Dutch: Frans Polynesië
  2. English: Territory of French Polynesia (formal)
  3. French: Polynésie f française, Établissements mp français de l'Océanie (obsolete)
  4. German: Französisch-Polynesien n
  5. Icelandic: Franska Pólýnesía
  6. Italian: Polinesia Francese
  7. Norwegian: Fransk Polynesia
  8. Portuguese: Polinésia Francesa
  9. Russian: Французская Полинезия
  10. Spanish: Polinesia f Francesa
  11. Turkish: Fransız Polinezyası

Origin of name: 

Descriptive: French possessions in Polynesia. Polynesia comes from the Greek words for "many islands".

Primary subdivisions: 

French Polynesia is divided into five subdivisions administratives (administrative subdivisions) and Clipperton Island.

Clipperton IslandPF.CI052none
Leeward IslandsPF.LI34,581430166Uturoa, Raiatea
Marquesas IslandsPF.MI9,261997385Taiohae, Nuku Hiva
Tuamotu and Gambier IslandsPF.TG16,831877339Papeete, Tahiti
Tubuai IslandsPF.TI6,82014255Mataura, Tubuai
Windward IslandsPF.WI200,7141,196462Papeete, Tahiti
6 subdivisions268,2073,6471,408

Further subdivisions:

See the Communes of French Polynesia page.

French Polynesia is subdivided into 48 communes.

Territorial extent: 

  1. A note in ISO standard 3166 states that Clipperton Island is part of France. Prior to 2007, the ISO standard said that it was part of French Polynesia. FIPS PUB 10-4 lists Clipperton Island as a separate country (code IP). The GENC standard also lists it as a country, with codes CP and CPT. ISO 3166-2 now lists it as part of France, with the code FR-CP. Clipperton is over 3,000 km. from the nearest part of French Polynesia, and over 11,000 km. from European France.
  2. Leeward Islands extends from Bellinghausen Island and the Îles Scilly in the west to Raiatea and Huahine in the east. It also includes Bora Bora.
  3. Marquesas Islands extends from Eiao and Hatutu in the northwest to Fatu Hiva in the southeast. It also includes Hiva Oa.
  4. Tuamotu and Gambier Islands includes several smaller island groups: the Actaeon Islands, Disappointment Islands, Duke of Gloucester Islands, Gambier Islands, and King George Islands. Some of its outlying members are Hereheretue, Timoe (Temoe), Pukapuka, and Matahiva.
  5. Tubuai Islands extends from Îles Maria in the west to Îles Marotiri (Îlots de Bass) in the east. It also includes Tubuai and Rurutu.
  6. Windward Islands extends from Maiao (Tubuai Manu) in the west to Mehetia in the east. It also includes Tahiti and Moorea.

The UN LOCODE page  for French Polynesia lists locations in the country, some of them with their latitudes and longitudes, some with their ISO 3166-2 codes for their subdivisions. This information can be put together to approximate the territorial extent of subdivisions.

Origins of names: 

  1. Clipperton Island: discovered by pirate Clipperton in 1705.
  2. Leeward Islands, Windward Islands: named for their relative locations in the Society Islands with respect to the prevailing easterly winds. The Society Islands, in turn, were named by Captain James Cook in honor of the Royal Society of Sciences, which had subsidized his journey.
  3. Marquesas Islands: named by Alvaro de Mendana de Neyra in honor of his uncle, Marquis Antonio de Mendoza, viceroy of Peru.
  4. Tuamotu and Gambier Islands: Tahitian tua: high sea, motu: islands; Gambier Islands named for James Gambier of the British Admiralty by their discoverer, Captain Wilson.

Change history: 

  1. 1931: Clipperton Island, disputed between France and Mexico, awarded to France by arbitration.
  2. 1936-06-12: Clipperton Island attached to French Establishments in Oceania.
  3. 1946-10-25: Status of Établissements français de l'Océanie changed to overseas territory.
  4. 1957-07-22: Name of territory changed to Polynésie française.
  5. 2004-03-01: Status of French Polynesia changed from overseas territory to overseas country.
  6. 2007-02-21: Clipperton Island placed directly under the administration of the French Overseas Ministry (Ministère de l'Outre-Mer).

Other names of subdivisions: 

  1. Clipperton Island: Île Clipperton (French)
  2. Leeward Islands: Îles sous le Vent (French)
  3. Marquesas Islands: Îles Marquises (French); Isole Marchesi (Italian); Markesasinseln, Marquesasinseln (German); Marquezas Islands (obsolete)
  4. Tuamotu and Gambier Islands: Îles Tuamotu et Gambier (French); Low Archipelago (obsolete); Paumotu Islands (obsolete)
  5. Tubuai Islands: Austral Islands (variant); Îles Australes, Îles Tubuai (French)
  6. Windward Islands: Îles du Vent (French)

Population history:

Leeward Islands16,00015,71816,31119,06026,83833,94934,581
Marquesas Islands5,0005,5935,4196,5488,0649,2819,261
Tuamotu and Gambier Islands7,0008,2269,05211,79315,37018,31716,831
Tubuai Islands4,0005,0795,2086,2836,5636,6696,820
Windward Islands52,00084,552101,392123,069162,686196,520200,714


  1. [1] Fages, Jean. Cartographic Handbook of French Polynesia. Société des Océanistes, Paris, 1975. Has 1971 populations.
  2. [2] "Renforcement du statut d’autonomie de la Polynésie française," article on the website of the U.M.P. Group in the French National Assembly at (dead link, retrieved 2004-03-05).
  3. [3] MediaTropical news site at (dead link, retrieved 2004-03-05).
  4. [4] Premiers résultats du recensement de la population de la Polynésie française 2012  has 2012 populations (retrieved 2013-01-26).
  5. [5] Web page titled "Code officiel géographique 2003: Documentation - Codes outre-mer", INSEE. (dead link, retrieved 2003-07-30).
  6. [6] Encyclopædia Britannica, 15th Edition, Chicago, 1984. Has 1962 populations, rounded to nearest 1,000.
  7. [7] John Paxton, ed. The Statesman's Yearbook 1988-89. St. Martin's Press, New York 1988. Has 1983 populations.
  8. [8] 1979 Demographic Yearbook , 31st Ed. Statistical Office, United Nations, New York, 1980 (retrieved 2011-12-28).
  9. [9] Recensement 2012 . Institut de la statistique de la Polynésie française (retrieved 2014-02-07).
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