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COUNTRY PROFILES


PROFILE

Status: British Overseas Territory
Area: 4.5 sq km (2 sq m)
Population: 50
Capital City: Adamstown
People: Descended from the mutineers from the HMS Bounty and their Tahitian companions
Languages: English and Pitkern. The latter is a mixture of English and Tahitian and became an official language in 1997.
Religion(s): Seventh Day Adventist
Currency: New Zealand Dollar
Major political parties: There are no political parties. The Pitcairn IslandCouncil is made up of Councillors elected by the community.
Governor: Her Excellency Vicki Treadell (resident in Wellington)
Chief Minister: Pitcairn’s Mayor is Mr Michael Warren. He was elected in December 2007 for a 3-year period.
Administration: Pitcairn is administered by the Government of Pitcairn Islands (GPI). This is made up of the Governor’s Office and Pitcairn Islands Office (PIO) in Auckland and the Pitcairn Island Council. The major part of the general administration of Pitcairn is conducted by the PIO.
National Day: 23 January - Bounty Day. This commemorates the day in 1790 when HMS Bounty was scuppered

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ECONOMY

The economy of Pitcairn is largely based on subsistence fishing, horticulture, and the sale of handicrafts. Pitcairn’s primary source of income was traditionally the sale of postage stamps, but a downturn in the market led to financial reserves being exhausted and Pitcairn now receives budgetary aid from the UK. The Pitcairn Government is trying to boost revenue through the sale of .pn domain names, honey production and increasing tourist arrivals.

The population of the territory is self-employed or works for local government. There is no formal taxation.

Handicrafts, fruit and vegetables are traded with visiting ships. Pitcairn’s handicrafts are also marketed by mail order through the internet.

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HISTORY

Pitcairn was first settled in 1790 by some of the HMS Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian companions. The island was left uninhabited between 1856 and 1859 when the entire population was resettled on Norfolk Island. The present community are descended from two parties who, not wishing to remain on Norfolk, returned to Pitcairn in 1859 and 1864 respectively, and from shipwrecked whalers.

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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Pitcairn Islands’ Relations with Neighbours

Many Pitcairn Islanders have strong links with New Zealand – some are dual UK/New Zealand nationals. There are also increasing links with French Polynesia, Pitcairn's nearest neighbour, and Pitcairn is a member of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

Pitcairn Islands’ Relations with the International Community

The UK is responsible for Pitcairn’s external relations.

Relations with the UK

The UK is responsible for Pitcairn’s external relations, defence and internal security. The principal points of contact are Overseas Territories Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Governor’s Office at the British High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand.

UK Development Assistance

Over the last decade the UK Government has provided extensive development assistance for a range of projects designed to help provide an environment which encourages economic and social development and meet the reasonable needs of the community. These have included a health centre, rebuilding the school, upgrading telecommunications and a sealed road from the jetty to the main settlement. A regular scheduled shipping service was established in December 2009 and this provides a necessary life-line in terms of freight and passenger services.

Work is also progressing on projects to provide sustainable energy from renewable sources and an alternate harbour to make the landing of supplies, tourists (particularly from cruise ships) and islanders easier and safe.

Tourism/Visitors

Pitcairn has no air-strip and can only be reached by sea. The new shipping service provides a reliable, regular service enabling small groups of tourists to visit the island for three or ten days or for three months. The island's "Mutiny on the Bounty" history and remains of earlier Polynesian settlement make this a fascinating place to visit and there are many environmental attractions including rare flora and fauna, some of which are unique to the islands. Humpback whales also visit the islands from June to September. Information on shipping schedules and points of interest can be found at: http://www.visitpitcairn.pn (http://www.visitpitcairn.pn) .

If you are considering a visit to Pitcairn please see the Pitcairn Travel Advice.

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GEOGRAPHY

The Pitcairn Islands consist of four islands in the Pacific Ocean: Pitcairn, the only inhabited island, Henderson, Ducie and Oneo. Pitcairn is located at 25 degrees south and 130 degrees west, roughly 2170km (1350 miles) east south-east of Tahiti, 5310km (3300 miles) east north-east of Auckland, New Zealand and just over 6600km (4100 miles) from Panama.

Pitcairn is a rugged island of formidable cliffs of reddish-brown and black volcanic rock. It is an irregular shape, with nowhere giving easy access to the sea. From the ridge above the landing at Bounty Bay, round the southeast corner to Christian Point at the western extremity, the cliffs are sheer and inhospitable, capped by nothing more than volcanic ash and scrub. Many of the land shapes on the western side are also very steep. The highest point, only a few hundred metres from the coast, rises 347 metres above sea level. In the north the land rises a little less precipitously, from 60 metres to 270 metres and the central slopes of Flatland run almost gently downwards to the northeast and the settlement of Adamstown.

Henderson Island

Henderson Island is the best example in the Pacific of a large raised coral atoll. The island is an important breeding ground for seabirds and is home to numerous endemic species including the endangered Henderson petrel. Henderson has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988. The UK and Pitcairn Governments are working with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) to safeguard Henderson’s biodiversity through a project to remove non-indigenous rats.

There is no scheduled shipping service between Pitcairn and Henderson. If you wish to visit Henderson (for example, by yacht) you will need to apply for a visitor's permit. For more information, contact the Pitcairn Island Office. admin@pitcairn.gov.pn (admin@pitcairn.gov.pn)

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POLITICS

Constitutional Status

Pitcairn is a British settlement under the British Settlements Act of 1887, although the Islanders usually date their recognition as a British territory to a constitution of 1838 devised with the help of a visiting Royal Navy officer. In 1893, 1898 and 1940, further changes were made in the Islands Government.

In 1952 responsibility for Pitcairn was transferred from the High Commissioner for the Western pacific to the Governor of Fiji. When Fiji became independent the Pitcairn Order and Royal Instructions, both of 1970, were the instruments that embodied the constitution of Pitcairn, establishing the office of the Governor and regulating his powers and duties. The British High Commissioner to New Zealand is appointed concurrently as Governor (Non-Resident) of Pitcairn.

In September 2009, a consultation period began on a new Constitution to better meet the needs of Pitcairn in the 21st century. Following a series of discussions between the UK Government and Pitcairn a final text was agreed, which had the support of the Pitcairn Island Council.

The Pitcairn Constitution Order 2010 was made on 10 February by Her Majesty in the Privy Council and came into force in March 2010. For the first time the new Constitution includes a Fundamental Rights chapter. It also establishes the role of the Island Council in the Constitution and obliges the Governor, in normal circumstances, to consult with the Island Council before making laws. It clarifies the independent role of the Pitcairn courts and judicial officers and guarantees the independence of the public service.

Pitcairn Islanders manage their internal affairs through the Pitcairn Island Council, for which elections are held every two years – most recently in December 2011. A new Governance Structure, introduced in April 2009, established for the first time public service positions to head up four Divisions - Community Development, Operations, Natural Resources and Finance and Economic.

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Last Updated: May 2011

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