Jurisdiction Project


Pitcairn Island is the United Kingdom’s sole Overseas Territory located in the South Pacific Ocean. Country name conventional long form: Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno Islands; conventional short form: Pitcairn Islands. It is composed of Pitcairn Island and the three uninhabited islands of Henderson Island, Ducie, and Oeno, which were attached to it in 1938. Pitcairn is Britain’s smallest protectorate.

Land: Pitcairn Island is 47 sq. km. Henderson Island is 3,700 ha of land (approximately 36 sq. km. including reef and lagoon). Oeno is 65 ha of land (1,600 ha including reef and lagoon). Ducie is 70 ha of land (320 ha including reef and lagoon). Although the Pitcairn Island group has a total land area of approximately 40 sq. km., it has an Exclusive Economic Zone [EEZ] of 200 nm Highest elevation 347 m (1,138 ft); and 51 km of coastline. Territorial sea is 3 nm.

Pitcairn is located 2,170 km (1,350 mi) East Southeast of Tahiti; 5,310 km (3,300 mi) East Northeast of administrative headquarters in Auckland, New Zealand. Henderson Island is located 200 km East Northeast of Pitcairn Island. Oeno is located 120 km Northwest of Pitcairn Island. Ducie is located 472 km East of Pitcairn Island.

Latitude and Longitude:
Pitcairn Island: 25 04 S, 130 06 W. GMT minus 8 hours. Henderson Island: 24 22 S, 128 20 W. Oeno: 23 56 S, 130 44 W. Ducie: 24 40 S, 124 47 W.

Time Zone:
GMT -8

Total Land Area:


Subtropical, average annual rainfall 2,000 mm evenly distributed throughout the year. The mean monthly temperature ranges from 24 C in January to 19 C in July.

Natural Resources:
Miro trees, fish. The EEZ includes many minerals, including manganese, iron, copper, gold, silver, and zinc.


Total GDP:

Per Capita GDP:

% of GDP per Sector:
  Primary Secondary Tertiary

% of Population Employed by Sector
  Primary Secondary Tertiary

External Aid/Remittances:
According to the British High Commission in New Zealand, there are 22 projects in various stages in Pitcairn, co-funded by the British government and the European Union (through the European Development Fund). The total cost of these projects is $10.5 million. Development assistance is made available from a variety of United Kingdom sources, including the Department for International Development (funding for refurbishing/replacing key infrastructure, such as £1.9 million granted in September 2004 to repair/refurbish road on Hill of Difficulty, as well as jetty/slipway), and the Overseas Territories Department’s Good Government Fund (for governance-related projects, which averages £38,000/annually). Budget: revenues: $746,000; expenditures: $1.028 million (FY04/05). Economic aid recipient: $3.465 million (2004)

Total GDP: As the Pitcairn Island economy is based upon bartering, such information is not available. Financial Projections (2003): Income (NZ $): Stamps: $360,650; Domain Registration: $129,168; Phone Cards, Coins and Royalties: $16,670; Licenses: $44,476; Electricity: $30,778; Freight: $72,899; Total Income: $654,641. Cost of Goods Sold: $431,171; Gross Profit: $223,470; Investment Income: $81,777; Total Gross Income: $305,247; Total Operating Expenses: $537,103; Net Loss for Year: $231,856.

Labour Force:
2004 15

Year: Unemployment Rate (% of pop.)

Postage stamps and the sale of internet domains are the major cash earners. More recent endeavours include bee keeping/honeymaking, and selling dried fruit by mail. The population is largely preoccupied with subsistence fishing and gardening, as well as making handicrafts, which are subsequently traded with visiting ships or sold via mail order.

Niche Industry:
Postage stamps, internet domains, honey (noted for rich fruity flavour, attributed to nectar from Mango, Lata, Passion Flower, Guava, and Roseapple flowers), dried fruit, wood carvings.

Eco-tourism: The population believes its best bet for survival is by attracting eco and adventure-oriented tourists. A 2003 report, prepared by Jacques & Associates Limited outlined a plan by which tourism would be outsourced to an outside concern, but the locals would maintain control over it. According to the plan, a maximum of 10 tourists would be brought in at a time, for a two week span. The Tourist Division of Pitcairn would charge each tourist $1,000 (NZ), which would go to the Pitcairn Fund. Likewise, there would be spin-off benefits for the locals. It is believed that this plan would minimize the intrusion by outsiders, while at the same time turn around the economic woes confronting Pitcairn Island. Airport construction: Pitcairn’s economic development plans hinge on improving access to the remote island. There have been plans in the past to establish an airstrip, but to date they have been unrealized. In December 2003, a British Foreign and Commonwealth Office-funded study indicated that there was enough flat land in the Aute Valley to construct a grass airstrip. This study also highlighted the quality of life improvements that such an airstrip would provide, not just by bringing in tourists, but also, for example, facilitating medical evacuations.


Imports and Exports:

Tot. Value of Imports 0.00 ()
From Eu:
Import Partners (EU:)
Partners Outside EU:
Import Partners:
Tot. Value of Exports ()
To Eu:
Export Partners:
Partners Outside EU::
Export Partners:
Main Imports: fuel oil, machinery, building materials, flour, sugar, other foodstuffs
Main Exports: fruits, vegetables, curios, stamps



Number of Airports:
There is no air service to or from Pitcairn Island.

Number of Main Ports: 1
Adamstown (on Bounty Bay). There is no regular scheduled service. Ships travelling between New Zealand and United Kingdom are usually stopped while passing by. There are no wharf facilities on Pitcairn Island, and the often-turbulent nature of the water can make accessing the island difficult – not to mention dangerous.



There are 6.4 km of unpaved roads on Pitcairn. There are no cars – the only means for transportation on island is 3-wheeled all-terrain vehicles.


Other Forms of Transportation:

Economic Zones:
Although the Pitcairn Island group has a total land area of approximately 40 sq. km., it has an Exclusive Economic Zone [EEZ] of 800,000 sq. km.

Energy Policy:
Electricity provided by 3 small diesel-powered generators on island. One is 100 kva, while the other two are 50 kva. 240 volt electric power available 6 hours in the evening and 3 hours in the morning each day. Some families have private generators to use when power is down. Since the Pitcairn Investment Fund ended its subsidy of diesel-based electricity in 2000, the population has been switching to liquid petroleum gas.

Year Total Energy Production (Mwh) Thermic (Mwh) Geothermic (Mwh) Other (Mwh) Total Energy Consumption (Mwh) Domestic (Mwh) Commercial (Mwh) Public Service (Mwh) Industry (Mwh) Public Lighting (Mwh)


Official Currency:
New Zealand dollar (NZ$)

Banking and Insurance:
Number of Banks and Credit Unions:
Number of Agricultural Credit Unions:
Number of Insurance Companies:

 There are no banking facilities. Travellers cheques are cashed at the Island Secretary’s office; likewise, foreign currencies can be exchanged.

Financial Services:

There is a simple local telephone system. Overseas communications including e-mail is handled via satellite and surface mail. While overseas phone calls are possible, their cost remains prohibitive. Mail service is infrequent and it is difficult to predict delivery and arrival times. The Pitcairn Island Post Office handles the mail, while the Pitcairn Island Philatelic Bureau issues its own stamps. There is a local monthly newsletter, The Pitcairn Miscellany. It has a distribution of over 1,000 worldwide. Profits from the newsletter are returned to the Pitcairn school and community equipment fund. Pitcairn Island’s internet presence is not well developed. The government has a site which provides contact information for the sale of Pitcairn honey, .pn internet domains, phone cards, stamps, and post cards.

Public Ownership:
Profits made in the community are reinvested in the community. This includes money made by the General Store, The Pitcairn Miscellany, the Pitcairn Island Post Office and Philatelic Bureau, .pn domain sales, and Pitcairn Island honey.

Land Use:
Pitcairn Island does not currently have any protected areas. There is no conservation policy. Due to deforestation (only a small portion of the original forest remains because of burning and clearing for settlement) A land tax on all land held by non-residents or on lands held by a resident beyond their reasonable needs, is designed to ensure sufficient land is available for reallocation through a Land Court, to every resident in order to provide for their needs. Only Pitcairners, by birth or naturalization, or their children or grandchildren (at least 18 years old) are eligible for this allocation, provided they are resident at the time of application and intend to remain. Henderson Island has been a World Heritage site, under UNESCO World Heritage Convention, since 1989.

Crops are grown and harvested locally at a subsistence level, including breadfruit, sweet potatoes, sugar cane, taro, oranges, bananas, coffee, and coconuts. Islanders began beekeeping in the late-1990s. Miro trees are harvested from Henderson Island for curio-making.

Marine Activity:

Territorial sea: 3 nautical miles. Exclusive economic zone: 200 nautical miles. Development and management of Pitcairn Island marine resources is under jurisdiction of the Governor. There is currently no fishing management plan, although some licenses have been granted in the past to foreign fishers.

Marine Life:

Critical Issues:
Dwindling population: Due to the island’s isolation and consequent lack of opportunities, the population has declined from 200 in 1936 to 46 in 1999. The small size of the population puts the island’s survival in doubt. Decreasing contact with outside world: In 2003 Pitcairn lost its regular supply ship route for 6 months when Blue Star line stopped travelling in the vicinity. This was replaced by the Seatrade shipping company, which operates from February-September each year. This does not fully replace the lost service insofar that it does not provide a Christmas shipment, and it is one way/outbound. Dwindling Pitcairn Investment Fund: Money made from the sale of the island’s postage stamps have been invested and the interest earned has been used to subsidize the high cost of public utilities, transportation to New Zealand for medical attention, administrative costs, and the cost of freight/imports. The problem that has arisen is that revenues from stamp sales have declined as this hobby has decreased in popularity. In the early 1990s the Fund was worth $3 million (NZ). As the 1990s progressed the Fund was used to finance successive budget deficits. In 2000 it was estimated that the Fund would be insolvent within 3-5 years. As such, a new, less generous plan was adopted that was expected to keep the Fund afloat for a decade. Despite this the Fund’s worth continues to drop, with a value of $1.14 million in December 2002. Air access: There is no airfield on Pitcairn, which means the only way to reach the island is via sea vessel.



Political System:
Governed internally by a 10 member Island Council, ultimate responsibility rests with a Governor acting for the United Kingdom, whose office is located in Wellington, New Zealand. A Commissioner, who handles most practical matters for Pitcairn Island, is in Auckland, New Zealand. The Commissioner is appointed by the Governor. The Pitcairn Commission’s main responsibilities include getting supplies to Pitcairn Island and leading efforts to develop new industries.

In February 2000 a Governor’s Representative was appointed. Living on Pitcairn Island, this officer provides a link between the Governor and the Island Council, which this individual attends, but does not have a vote in.

Pitcairn's Island Council has authority to enact laws which must be brought forward to the Governor, who has the powers of revocation and alteration. Council rarely exercises its legislative function without first consulting the Governor. Council is composed of 10 members, including 5 elected by popular vote, 1 nominated by elected members, 2 appointed by the Governor, the Island Mayor, and a commissioner liaising between the Governor and Council. The Education Officer is appointed as Government Advisor and Auditor. In this role the individual provides advice to the government when requested. The Government Adviser attends the Island Council, but cannot vote.

The Mayor is the head of local government. This position, which replaced the former Magistrate in 1999, is elected by a general vote. The Mayor’s powers include permitting visitors access to the island.

Justice System: The current makeup of the justice system is somewhat unclear. Traditionally the Island Court, consisting of the magistrate and 2 councillors, has overseen legal cases. Jurisdiction limited to offences under island code committed by, and civil actions between, residents or those that arise within territorial waters. The recent sex abuse trial on Pitcairn has abandoned custom insofar that 3 New Zealand judges were appointed by the Governor to pass judgement. In another unfamiliar step for the island, prosecution and defence lawyers were brought in from New Zealand. This case was heard under British law, as opposed to the distinctive Pitcairn law.

Political Parties:
Political Parties: all candidates run as independents. Elections: the Mayor is elected by popular vote for a 3 year term. All other elected members serve 1 year terms. Elections typically held during first two weeks in December.

Important Legislation:
Pitcairn Royal Instructions, 1970: Basis of modern constitution, creating office of Governor and outlining powers and duties. Establishes that British High Commissioner to New Zealand will be appointed concurrently as Governor of Pitcairn, and be assisted by Pitcairn Island Administration Office in Auckland. Likewise, establishes that Island Council shall hold elections annually.

Constitution: The origin of Pitcairn’s relationship with Britain is a matter of debate. The islanders’ trace it back to a constitution they constructed, with the aid of a Royal Navy officer, on 30 November 1838. This constitution was rendered unique by its progressive features, such as compulsory education and female suffrage. However, according to the British government, Pitcairn did not become a British settlement until the British Settlement Act of 1887.

Principal Taxes:
No taxation, but all able-bodied residents between 15 and 65 are required to perform monthly public works.

Associated Power:
United Kingdom

Associated Power: Pitcairn is a British Overseas Territory. (noun: Pitcairn Islander(s) adjective: Pitcairn Islander) It is administered by the Pitcairn Islands Office in Auckland, New Zealand.

Pitcairn is a member of the Pacific Community, which is a non-political organization mandated to provide social and economic technical development through advisory and consultative activities. It has 26 members.


Population (by year): 46 (1999); 66 (1998); 40 (1997); Population (by age): <14: 30%; 15-59: 51%; >59: 19%. 48 (2008 est.)

Island Area (km sq.) Population % of Total Population

Telephone main lines in use: 1 (there are 17 telephones on one party line)(2004); Telephone system: general assessment: satellite phone services domestic: domestic communication via radio (CB) international: country code - 872; satellite earth station - 1 (Inmarsat). Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 0, shortwave 0 (15 Ham radio operators (VP6)) (2004). Internet country code: .pn; Internet hosts: 9 (2007)

Year Resident Population

Age of Population: 0-14 15-24 25-49 50-64 65 and up
1999 30 0 0 0 19



Crude Birth Rate:

Life Expedctancy:

Crude Death Rate:

Descendants of Polynesian and British settlers who arrived on the Bounty.

Class Division:

Official languages are English and Pitkern (since 1997). Pitkern is a mixture of English and Tahitian.

The entire population converted to the Seventh-Day Adventist faith after a missionary visited in 1886. The church’s influence can be seen in the official prohibition of alcohol and dancing on-island.

 The population boasts full literacy.

Education System:
Elementary education, based on New Zealand syllabus, is provided at the school in Adamstown. The curriculum keeps current with changes in New Zealand. Post-primary education is handled by correspondence, or with the students transferring to New Zealand. Government bursaries are available for secondary education off-island.
Head of Pitcairn Island education is the Education Officer, appointed by the Governor for a 2 year term from qualified, New Zealand-registered teacher applicants. The Education Officer also serves as Government Advisor and Editor of Pitcairn Miscellany.
The Education Officer is assisted by a Pitcairn language teacher. Staff at the school also includes the cleaner and grounds person. Equipment at school also includes a 7.5 kva generator, film projector, piano, sound system, computers, television, VCR, photocopier, woodworking tools, and a library. There were 10 pupils in 1999.

Total Pre-schools:()
Total Primary Schools  
First Level:
Second Level:
Third Level:
Total Secondary Schools:
Total Professional Schools


Number of Schools per Island:


Students Enrolled:


Medical Services:
The Health Centre, completed in 1997, is funded by the British Government Overseas Development Administration fund. It has an examination room, x-ray room, dental clinic, and a 2-bed ward for overnight patients. It is staffed by a doctor (resident since 2004, and funded by the UK Department for International Development), a resident nurse, an assistant nurse, and a dental officer (who doubles as the x-ray technician). The resident nurse is usually the wife of the island pastor, and is there for a 2-3 year term. The nurse is funded jointly by the UK Department for International Development and the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Expenses for medical evacuations to New Zealand are covered by government loan or grant.


 While Pitcairn is believed to have been first settled by Polynesians, its first recorded inhabitants arrived in 1790 after a group of 9 British sailors mutinied while aboard the famous Bounty. Choosing to settle Pitcairn Island, based upon its isolation, which was an important factor due to the looming threat of punishment by British authorities, their holding also included 6 Polynesian men and 13 Polynesian women. It is from this group of settlers that the current population is derived. The population remained in isolation until 1808 when contact was made with an American whaling ship. In September 1814 contact was made with 2 British ships. Rather than arresting the men for their earlier transgressions, the captains decided to let them continue on with their lives. There have been a couple attempts to resettle the islanders. In 1831 the entire population was transported to Tahiti. Exposed to numerous diseases that killed 12 members of their contingent in 2 months, and unaccustomed to the Tahitian way of life, the remaining 65 members of the Pitcairn community opted to return to their home island. In 1856 the British government aided a relocation effort to Norfolk Island, based on the concern that the 193 residents were outstripping the resources on Pitcairn. In 1858, 16 islanders opted to move back to Pitcairn they were joined by a second group in 1864 that brought the population up to 43. The early 20th century saw increased communications with the outside world, with more merchant ships and liners passing by. The 1914 opening of the Panama Canal was especially important in bringing ships through the area. Increased contact provided an opportunity for trade, with the islanders selling locally produced food and curios to passers-by. However, with improved transportation links the population began a gradual decline, from a peak of 200 in 1936 to just 46 in 1999. The vast majority of these emigrants have settled in New Zealand and Australia. Visits by ships declined drastically in the 1970s, but have increased in more recent times, with much of the increase consisting of yachts and cruise ships.

In the summer of 2001, 42 people voted in a referendum on whether a New Zealand consortium’s plan to turn the island into a tourist destination with 2 airports, an airline, and a 4 star hotel. 22 voted for the plan and 6 against. The plan would place an international airport on Oeno. This has resulted in environmental concerns because this undisturbed coral atoll has many unique plants and animal life that could become endangered. The company promised 10% of profits to Pitcairn, and that never more than 30 visitors would be present at a time.

Recent Significant Events:
National Holiday: Birthday of Queen ELIZABETH II, second Saturday in June (1926)
Sex abuse scandal: The scandal began in 1999 when a 15 year old girl claimed to have been raped by a visitor from New Zealand. The investigation that ensued lasted 4 years, and resulted in 64 charges of a sexual nature against 9 men (7 residing on Pitcairn) laid on Pitcairn in April 2003; 32 charges of a sexual nature were laid in New Zealand in June 2003 against 4 men. Of these charges, 31 were for rape, and 63 indecent assaults. In October 2004, 4 men were found guilty of raping under-age girls, resulting in sentences of up to 6 years in prison, and 2 others were convicted for indecent assault, with corresponding sentences of community service and counselling. With one-half of the adult male population sentenced for sex crimes, and 4 heading to jail, many have wondered if this will spell the end of Pitcairn Island. Questions were also raised, given the fact that the men were found guilty using British law, rather than local law. An appeal, claiming that the British have never had jurisdiction over the island, therefore rendering the sentences invalid, has been launched.

Music, Dance, Handicraft and Patrimony:


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