HC 846 Sustainability in the Overseas Territories

Written evidence submitted by Government of Pitcairn Islands

1. Introduction

The Pitcairn Islands are a group of four near-pristine small islands which can claim to be some of the most remote islands in the world. They consist of Pitcairn (the only inhabited island with a population of around 60); Henderson, a raised fossilised coral atoll which is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site; Ducie, a coral atoll; and Oeno, a low coral atoll. All four islands in the group are recognised as Important Bird Areas (IBAs). Global Ocean Legacy, part of the PEW group, have submitted proposals to declare a Marine Reserve in the Pitcairn EEZ, covering 836,000 km2 of ocean. A National Geographic scientific expedition has declared the marine waters around Pitcairn Islands to be in a nearly unspoiled state. Pitcairn island itself is the peak of a extinct volcano with an approximate land area of 4.5 sq km and rising to a height of 347 metres above sea level. The inhabitants are mostly descendants of the mutineers of HMS Bounty and their Tahitian companions. The climate is sub tropical with rich volcanic soil and lush vegetation. Transport is by quad bike, and the island is in a mainly unspoiled condition.

Pitcairn has high volcanic steep slopes and a maximum altitude of 329m. Lying 1570km West of Easter Island, 5350km North East of New Zealand.

2. Non Government Organisations

2.1 Due to limited resources, a lack of academic experience and a vast array of challenges, the Pitcairn Islands rely heavily on the assistance and expertise of Non Government Organisations when it comes to environmental, conservation and legislative/procedure issues.

2.2 NGO’s such as UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum (UKOTCF), The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and others provide support. We also try to share experience and lessons with other OT environmental/conservation departments by reviewing their models, policies and legislation.

2.3 The Pitcairn Natural Resources Division is still relatively new (established in 2009) and evolving. It is therefore a priority not to re-invent the wheel but to share experiences with other OTs.

2.4 Compared to other OTs, Pitcairn’s Natural Resources Division is extremely small with a huge portfolio of responsibilities and no full-time staff. Limited Government salaries mean that the Division Manager is only paid to work 42 hours per month (the equivalent of just over 5 days a month) on leading this Government Division. In practice, many more (unpaid) hours are worked, but this is in a Territory with responsibility for over 40 globally threatened species, so much urgent work is necessarily left undone due to capacity constraints. More support is needed.

2.5 RSPB has played a major role in supporting Pitcairn’s conservation and rat eradication on Henderson Island. RSPB has provided long term support to Natural Resources Division and we will continue to work in partnership. This is a credit to RSPB.

3. Budgetary Aid/DFID

3.1 As Pitcairn is on Budgetary Aid we understand the responsibilities and accountability that lies with this. Budgetary Aid acts as a restraint on the development and implementation of certain areas within Natural Resources which can be frustrating for future development. As stated within the DFID Overseas Territories Department Operational Plan 2011-2015 the focus is on economic development and growth.

3.2 The Corporate and Programme Manager, Overseas Territories Department, DFID  

hasn’t visited Pitcairn, which is a disadvantage. In a recent Council meeting it was decided that a second invitation will be extended to the Corporate and Programme Manager to visit Pitcairn. The benefits of visiting Pitcairn will help the person within this role understand the logistics, infrastructure, and the daily workings of the Island without this creates a lack of knowledge first hand and reading from documents aren’t always accurate.

3.3 For the past 6 months the position of Environment, Climate & Natural Resources Adviser in DfID’s Overseas Territories Department has not been filled. Pitcairn relies on this position to provide information, advice and funding application assistance. It is disappointing that such an organisation has not filled such an important role.

4. UK Funding Streams

4.1 As a developing Division over the past 5 years we have utilised OTEP and now Darwin Plus for funding. We have received small grants from JNCC and RSPB during the Henderson Rat Eradication.

4.2 Other funding streams haven’t been utilised due to lack of knowledge, time constraints and lack of human resources and experience in drafting applications. Funding proposal timelines are often too short for small populated territories with limited resources and expertise. There is a huge and unrealistic pressure on the Pitcairn Natural Resources Division to perform at the same level as other, much larger, Environment Departments.

5. Conclusion

5.1 Pitcairn’s Natural Resources Division is an extremely small operation and must perform to the same level of competencies as other OT’s many of whom have full time government departments. This places unfair pressure on the Division Manager.

5.2 Overseas Territories are often seen as a burden and of lesser importance by HMG. Pitcairn as an OT is not a burden; there is an opportunity for HMG to promote the OTs rich environmental wealth of endemic flora and fauna. HMG should be proud to be part of such unique culture and history.

5.3 The support received from NGO’s is invaluable to Pitcairn’s development. NGOs should be applauded for the work and support they provide to OTs and Pitcairn. It is shameful that HMG shows little interest.

13 December 2012

Prepared 14th January 2013