Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Seventh Report

Pitcairn Islands

Population: 47

GDP per head: $ 3,385 [2005, best estimate]

Key industries: Reliant on UK budgetary aid [continued downturn in postage stamp sales exhausted Pitcairn's financial reserves in October 2004]


507.  Pitcairn Island is a small volcanic island situated in the South Pacific Ocean at latitude 25 04 south and longitude 130 06 west. It is roughly 1350 miles east south-east of Tahiti; 3300 miles east north-east of its administrative headquarters in Auckland, New Zealand and just over 4100 miles from Panama. It is a rugged island of formidable cliffs of reddish-brown and black.


508.  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.

Constitutional status

509.  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 Royal Instructions, both of 1970, were the instruments that embodied the modern constitution of Pitcairn, establishing the office of the Governor and regulating his powers and duties. Under these the Governor is the law-making authority for Pitcairn, with Pitcairn's Island Council only playing an advisory role. Prior approval of the Foreign Secretary must be sought for the enactment of certain classes of law. In practice, the British High Commissioner to New Zealand is appointed concurrently as Governor (Non-Resident) of Pitcairn and is assisted by the Pitcairn Island Administration Office in Auckland. Elections to the Island Council are held annually.

Evidence received

510.  The Committee received one submission from a Pitcairn resident.

511.  The Committee heard oral evidence from the Commissioner of Pitcairn in December 2007.

Key recommendations

  • We recommend that the Government should ensure that Pitcairn residents are informed and consulted on proposals for the Island's economic development. (para 353)

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