26 Aug 2013

Pitcairn diaspora to be gauged on resettling island

5:24 pm on 26 August 2013

Far-flung Pitcairn Islanders are about to be surveyed about what made them leave the isolated territory and what would make them return.

The United Kingdom government wants to see Pitcairn's population increase from the 50-odd there at the moment to about 80 by 2016.

The Deputy Governor of the Pitcairn Islands, Kevin Lynch, says there are believed to be several thousand Pitcairn Islanders scattered around the world.

KEVIN LYNCH: We decided we'd ask the diaspora, in the first instance, what they thought about coming back and living on Pitcairn, and also what they perceive as Pitcairn Island to see if we can remove those barriers. And linked in to that is socio-economic survey which will have a look at the opportunities for developing the economy of Pitcairn Island and some of the pinch points to see if we can help the economy of Pitcairn Island.

SALLY ROUND: Are there many Pitcairn Island islanders scattered throughout the world?

KL: How many there are we are not sure at the moment, and we've only got a guesstimate. There are disapora living here in New Zealand and in Norfolk Island, maybe small pockets in America and small pockets in the United Kingdom.

SR: And would the aim be to look at what might attract them back to their homeland?

KL: That's exactly right. As I say, what might attract them back to come back and settle and help Pitcairn's future. And also if they've got thoughts on why they might not settle back - one of the obvious things is the remoteness of Pitcairn Island - and to see what we can do to develop some opportunities. We can't do anything about the remoteness, but maybe the accessibility to the island.

SR: So, for example, how could you improve that?

KL: We would look at the transport means into Pitcairn Island to see if we can get some private investment. At the moment there are four supply ships three months per year. Obviously, some people might think that is a bit too much trouble to look somewhere along the lines of increasing that frequency. But that obviously involves money and we'd have to look at that very carefully.

SR: So what is the potential for Pitcairn Island? It's facing increasing challenges of shipping changes and so on. The postage stamps with the internet coming on there. Postage stamps are not so attractive, I guess, anymore.

KL: Yeah, that's right. The postage stamps have gone down over the years with the advent of internet and email. The goal is to increase the population and that's part of the strategic development plan that Pitcairn Island Council, along with the FCO and the Department for International Development, have put together. We have some figures in that to try and get [the population] up to 80 by 2016 and these surveys will help us judge how we do that.

SR: So why is Pitcairn Island so important for the UK? Why do they want to put the investment into such an isolated community which some might say is really not worth spending the money on? British taxpayers have spent almost 10 million pounds in aid over the last 4 years.

KL: Yes, well, that's their reasonable needs and we've already published that. And also the people on Pitcairn Island, as all people throughout the world do, have under UK law and international law, the right to live where they want to live. And that's what we are dealing with.

SR: With more people back in Pitcairn Island, won't that put more pressure on services?

KL: Yes, indeed, it will. And that's what we'll be looking at very carefully. We won't actually be encouraging thousands of people to come on Pitcairn Island, because it's an island two miles by one mile and has limited resources. So obviously we'll be carefully monitoring any growth in population so that it's sustainable.