Article by Jacqui Christian (Pitcairn Island)
Published in The Ofi Press issue 38.
Pitcairn Island – The Smallest British Overseas Territory
Pitcairn Island with a population of less than 50 people is the smallest British Overseas Territory. Situated in the South Pacific approximately half way between New Zealand and Panama, it is geographically isolated from the UK though the closest island of French Polynesia with an airport just 300 nautical miles away.
Though a British territory, logistics are still handled by a combination of the Governor based in Wellington who is the British High Commissioner to New Zealand, the Pitcairn Office in Auckland and the local Council. With modern video conferencing facilities, it is possible to have meetings on Pitcairn with New Zealand and London at the same time.
For many years, Pitcairn was a welcome break in the journey between Panama and New Zealand for those traveling on passenger ships. Longboats would go out to the ship and trade of fresh fruit and souvenirs would be made for things such as clothing, sugar and flour or other items to be taken back ashore.
Radio communication was the only means of communication until the mid 1990s.Today Pitcairn has internet and telephone via satellite communications. The telephone prefix is +64. This has significantly changed the feeling of isolation on island as it is more affordable and accessible to keep in touch with friends, family and the rest of the world although physical supplies and mail still is brought to the island on a quarterly basis. Pitcairners now “Google” everything too!
Along with the 50 or so natives, there are expatriate professionals living on island for varying terms of employment. Pitcairn has a doctor, teacher, social worker, police and British representative. This provides a variety of services to meet the needs of an isolated aging population and a government who still has to perform in accordance with international standards.
Pitcairn is open to immigrants though the challenge is that there are few paid jobs available on island. Without immigrants, the sustainability of the island is in question.
Much focus has been placed on building a tourism industry to drive the economy of Pitcairn. It is hoped that this will create the necessary opportunities to rebuild the population to a sustainable level. Pitcairn enjoys its small tourism industry with currently around 100 tourists staying on island each year. Guests stay with descendants of the Bounty Mutineers in their homes for their 4, 11 or 18 day visits. Getting to Pitcairn is still a special event and quite a journey. One has to fly to Papeete in French Polynesia, to Mangareva (an outer island in French Polynesia) then catch the Claymore 2, the supply freighter,O to make the 36 hour journey to Pitcairn.
Bookings can be made via www.visitpitcairn.pn for this exclusive service and experience of a lifetime.
Jacqui Christian is a 7th generation descendant of Fletcher Christian, leader of the Bounty Mutineers. Her parents are Tom and Betty Christian who spent their lives serving the local government. Unfortunately her dad passed away last year on the island.
She was born and raised on Pitcairn but has spent approximately half of her life living on island and half spread across NZ, Australia and the UK. She is a registered Pharmacist but has been working with the Pitcairn government in administration and representation for the past 7 years trying to help to create a sustainable future for the island.