The governing body of Atafu atoll in Tokelau has forced out some of its elected members because they refuse to go to church.

Maka Toloa, a former law commissioner of Tokelau, told the Herald he was angry at the removal of some of the taupulega (village council) members who were boycotting church services because of the local pastor.

They have not forgiven Iosua Faamoni for allegedly sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl in 1992.

While the girl spoke out about the offence six years later she never made a formal complaint so no charges were laid.

Faamoni left for Australia but then controversially returned to Atafu where he apologised and was traditionally pardoned.

However his return to the role of local preacher outraged some of the 500 residents.

For about the last year, those against the pastor had shown their disapproval by refusing to attend church, a radical move in the deeply religious community.

Mr Toloa said members of the taupulega were now being forcibly removed because of their stance.

"It seems the legal system of Tokelau has failed us badly and that our human rights have been breached to a point where totalitarian rule and absolute power is the order now for Tokelau and that our democratic rights as a citizen have been absolutely breached and violated."

He said six members had been banned from the 15-member council and a seventh had walked out in protest at their treatment.

Mr Toloa said New Zealand needed to intervene if Tokelau's council of ongoing government (representing all three atolls), which meets this month, failed to sort out the problem. Tokelau is New Zealand territory.

He left Atafu late last year to live in Wellington because of his disapproval of the situation with the pastor and the trouble it was causing.

Alan Williams, deputy secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said help had not been requested but the developments were being followed.

Mr Williams was aware of the reports that some members of the village council had been excluded from proceedings and that was causing concern on the atoll.

He understood that discussions about how to respond to that were going on and that the issues were being worked through.

Mr Williams said Tokelau had effectively been self-governing for many years.

"Unless Tokelau seeks advice it is a matter of Tokelau politics ... it is principally an internal domestic concern."

He understood the matter would be raised in discussions among the three atolls that comprised Tokelau and he anticipated the complex village relationships could be managed as they had for more than 1000 years.

Tokelau this year voted in a referendum against a formal move towards self-determination, some believing the country was not ready for it.

Mr Williams said the pastor was a separate issue and he understood discussions about another referendum were planned for this month.