Pitcairn Flag

Pitcairn Islands Guide

Pitcairn Today

The British Dependent Territory of Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno Islands is administered by the Pitcairn Island Administration in Auckland, New Zealand, on behalf of the South Pacific Department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.

The highest resident official is the island mayor, elected for three years. There's also a 10-member Island Council, four members of which are elected each year. In 1998, with Hong Kong off its hands, the British government conferred full citizenship on residents of all its remaining colonies, including Pitcairn.

The economy is self-sufficient, depending largely on subsistence agriculture, investment returns, and postage stamp sales. Collectors value Pitcairn stamps due to the history depicted on the limited issues (under a thousand Pitcairn stamps have been printed since 1940). British government aid is available for major capital expenditures from time to time. All the men work for the administration, mostly part-time.

The fertile soil supports a variety of fruits and vegetables for local consumption, with three crops of sweet potatoes grown a year. The only domestic animals are goats, chickens, cats, and dogs. The famous Pitcairn honey is sold in plastic containers to reduce breakage in shipping. The islanders also make baskets, small wooden carved sharks and longboats, and tiny models of the Bounty.

Pitcairn Islands Postage Stamp

There are 6.5 km of dirt roads on Pitcairn (muddy after rains), and the islanders ride around on three- and four-wheeled all-terrain vehicles. There are also tractors, microwaves, freezers, and VCRs; diesel-generated electricity is on for around two hours in the morning and four hours in the evening. The quaint Pitcairn wheelbarrows are a thing of the past.

A subsidized house building scheme has led to many new houses being built. Under a new landowner system, unused land reverts back to the Land Court for redistribution to any resident who wishes to use it. Only house sites are owned. Farm and orchard land is owned only for as long as it is being used.

The modern conveniences have brightened the lives of the islanders, reduced the number of people required to sustain the community, and convinced more of the young to stay. Even so, a fifth of the present population is older than 59, double the regional norm, and the median age of 35 is 10 years above the next oldest Pacific country.

It takes at least four men to operate one of the 13-meter longboats used to ferry passengers and goods from ship to shore and only eight working men remain on the island. Some Pitcairners feel that construction of an airstrip is the only way to avoid an eventual evacuation but Britain has refused to finance such a project. An air service could only be made viable through the development of tourism via Mangareva and the cost would be considerable. In a March 2001 referendum, 22 Pitcairn residents voted in favor of tourism development while only six were against.