A week or so ago I wrote about the famous mutiny on HMS Bounty and the island of Pitcairn in the South Pacific. It turns out that though at one time the island was home to several hundred people, over the years the number has called away to under 50 and most of them are at or approaching retirement age. To keep the community viable and vibrant an appeal has been created to welcome new immigrants to Pitcairn Island. Though an application process has to be met, the Pitcairn government offers land for housing for successful applicants and the community is in need of everyone from administrators to electricians. So far in over a year, despite 500 people contacting the government for information, there hasn’t been one single application and I wondered why it was.
Pitcairn is a British Overseas Territory with the Queen as head of state and a governor in New Zealand with more local democratic leaders on the island and so should be a safe and prosperous place to live especially for us British on our overcrowded island. Who wouldn’t want just 48 neighbours and a big detached house?
The first thing that strikes you about Pitcairn is its total remoteness. It is thousand of miles from anywhere and it is said to cost about $5,000 just to get to New Zealand which itself is not known for being to close to anywhere except Australia. I was looking at it on Google Earth and more than once zoomed out only a little way and was unable to find it again on the map. Despite this it does have internet connection and is even on Google Streetview except for street think beach and muddy tracks through bushes. The weather is almost perfect temperature wise and never gets cold though it can be humid. It’s soil is rich and fertile as are the seas for fishing and recently untold mineral wealth have been discovered in its vast EEZ sea zone. It has a school, a café and a shop that opens 3 times a week as well as television however the only way in or out of the island is by a freighter which in turns takes you to other islands many days travel away.
One factor that might restrict applicants is that the government states than an average islander requires over $9,000 a year to live but only received $6,000 and these mostly from hotly contested sales and services to the odd cruise ship that may or may not stop by. Applicants also need at least $30,000 in savings or assets and are not able to claim any benefits for some time after their arrival. Locals tourist jobs are protected and even after that, two years after arriving the applicant must then be authorised to stay.
A majority of the inhabitants are descended from four of the original families, something which gives them a reputation of inbreeding as well as being descended from mutinous traitors! In 2004 there was a child sex scandal which saw a large number of local men arrested and convicted of such crimes though several local women said that it was only in keeping with Polynesian traditions. Since 2004 the island has depended on aid from London and now it is trying to be economically self-sufficient again and to do that it needs to increase its population from about 50 to about 80. Projections indicate that if nothing is done by 2045, the island will only have 3 islanders of working age at which point the government in London might have to re-homing the residents.
I’m not sure about you but a part of me is hugely tempted but the island already has one author living there and would two out of 50 or even 80 be overkill. The islanders are well-known for traditionally shunning outsiders and has this changed very much even if they know they need new blood to survive. If like me you’re interested in at least reading more and won’t mind doing voluntary work to help keep the island running once you arrive then visit the Pitcairn government pages on repopulation. Please note there is a fee of NZ$500 for every application made!