Pitcairn site

PN missionClaymore CPS juin2014

The only British overseas territory in the Pacific, the Pitcairn Island group hosts a virtually untouched natural heritage and is home to about 50 inhabitants. So managing and preserving these very isolated and fragile environments is a high-priority sustainable development issue for the territory.

Pitcairn's strengths can also be its weaknesses, e.g. its remoteness and small population have both contributed to the preservation of the environment and prevented proper development of capabilities and activities. A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis was carried out as an evaluation and decision-making aid.

This analysis helped better define the project strategy and make future activities more consistent. So, consultations with the community and official revealed that the main issues are:

  • Improving waste management (particularly hazardous waste)
  • Controlling erosion
  • Preserving and promoting Pitcairn through sustainable environmental management and use : Fisheries management / Controlling invasive pests / Commercial development

These objectives are in line with the priorities set out in the Strategic Development Plan, i.e : 

  • Immigration and re-population
  • Infrastructure development
  • Tourism development


Pitcairn 11

Geography : 

The Pitcairn Island group is made up of four small, virtually untouched islands that are among the most remote in the world. They are located 2200 km east of Tahiti, 1570 km west of Easter Island and 5350 km north-east of New Zealand. To reach this part of the world, you have to go to the island of Mangareva in the Gambier Islands in French Polynesia and then travel by ship (The Claymore) for two days. This ship makes return trips only three times a year, i.e. in May, August and November.

The four islands in the group are called Pitcairn (the only inhabited island), Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno. They are subtropical islands with fertile volcanic soil and lush vegetation. Pitcairn is a dead volcano with steep slopes, whose peak reaches 347 m above sea level. it has a land area of about 5 sq. km.

Henderson is a raised fossilized-coral atoll, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ducie, the most southerly coral atoll in the world, has a central lagoon surrounded by four tiny islands covering an area of 70 ha. Finally, Oeno is a 65-ha low-lying coral atoll surrounded by a shallow lagoon and a fringing reef.


Population :

Only Pitcairn is inhabited with 49 Pitcairn Islanders and a dozen expatriates, making it one of the least populated island territories in the world. Some of the inhabitants are descendants of the nine Bounty mutineers, who, together with six Polynesian men, 12 Polynesian women, and a baby, took refuge on the island in January 1790 to escape hanging following Christian Fletcher’s mutiny against Captain William Bligh. The population peaked at 233 people in 1886 and has experienced a significant decline since the 1960s due to migration to New Zealand. The working force currently consists of 27 people aged 16 to 64. There are about 50 residents together with about a dozen non-resident public servants, most of whom have yearly contracts. The difficulties caused by isolation are particularly acute on Pitcairn, where there is a limited labour force and very infrequent transport options.


Economy : 

In the Pitcairn group, jobs are divided between the public and private sectors. Most of the active work force hold part-time public-service positions. The island receives GBP 2.9 million in aid from the British Government (Department for International Development – DFID) to provide for essential needs. Government incomes include: revenue from stamp and coin sales, landing fees, visa application fees, domain name (.pn), registration fees, and passenger fares. Government positions are paid at a rate of NZD 10-12/hour and there are no income-tax deductions or contributions.

Loans (for a period of 10 years) are available from the British Government to build houses and are interest-free for the first four years; Inhabitants also practice subsistence farming and

Every year, hundreds of tourists debark on the island (see table). Curious to relive the saga of the Bounty mutineers, they generate income for the island through the sales of souvenirs, handicrafts, local products; guided tours, home stays and food services, maintenance, transactions with cruise-ship passengers and fish sales (mainly as one-off supplies to passing ships).

Pitcairn visitorsINTEGRE

Biodiviersity and Environmental Pressure :

The small island of Pitcairn is home to 80 species of native vascular plants, including 10 endemic ones. Some 28 bird species nest in the island group, including a Murphy's petrel population that represents 90% of the world's population for this species. In 2012, a National Geographic expedition said that the ocean waters around the Pitcairn Islands were almost pristine. They described "pristine marine ecosystems with intact coral communities and healthy fish populations dominated by top predators such as sharks, unaltered deep sea habitats [harbouring] unique biodiversity (rare deep sea sharks, fish species completely new to science).” Following this expedition, the Pitcairn Island Council supported the Pew Charitable Trusts' proposal to create a marine reserve, which is currently being considered by the UK Government.


The introduction of invasive species to Pitcairn has resulted in considerable damage to the land environment. Wild goats cause soil erosion and so, there was an eradication campaign in 2014 to rid the island of these pests. Rats are not only a hindrance to local farming yields but are also a health risk. There has also been overlogging locally for fuel and for building materials. In addition, Pitcairn has experienced a change in weather patterns with unpredictable weather and above-average rainfall. The island of Henderson is subjected to pollution. A scientific study published in 2017* revealed that this uninhabited UNESCO-World-Heritage-listed island has the highest density of plastic debris in the world: 18 tonnes of debris, i.e. 671 pieces per square metre. The island is located on the pathway of a ocean current known to transport a great deal of debris, resulting in the arrival of more than 3500 pieces every day on one of the island's beaches, thereby constituting a threat to land and marine biodiversity.


TedSide harbourINTEGRE

Pitcairn's strengths can also be its weaknesses, e.g. its remoteness and small population have both contributed to the preservation of the environment and prevented proper development of capabilities and activities.

A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis was carried out as an evaluation and decision-making aid. It is presented below :



A total budget of EUR 371,600 (i.e. NZD 580,625 and XPF 44 million) has been allotted for INTEGRE on Pitcairn. An action plan was developed to achieve these objectives based on two main activities.

Activity 1. Improve waste management


At the current time, Pitcairn does not have any waste storage or treatment facilities. However, in comparison to other Pacific islands and given its extreme isolation, Pitcairn's waste management is fairly good. Residents have special talents for reusing everyday objects and devices. One negative aspect is burning trash in a pit to reduce its volume, which poses a public health problems.

INTEGRE's objective is to help improve waste management through two actions :

  • Developing a waste management plan, particularly alternatives to burning, optimising reuse and export of recyclable and hazardous waste
  • Purchasing equipment, particularly a plant shredder to promote compost production

Provisional Amount : XPF 10,28 M / (i.e. EUR 86 192)

Operator : Environment, Conservation and Natural Resource Division (NRD)  

For more details, consulte Activity statement :


Activité 2. Reduce erosion

There was population of nearly 500 goats on Pitcairn at the beginning of the INTEGRE project, which caused a lot of damage to the island's hillsides as they eliminated the plant cover there. Work was undertaken by the British Government to eliminate all the wild goats in the early stages of INTEGRE, which was followed by a plan to manage the remaining domestic goats.


INTEGRE supported restoration of the damaged hillsides through three activities :

  • Setting up a nursery to replant the slopes
  • Laying erosion-control mats and planting
  • Laying culverts to collect water flowing down the slopes and reduce erosion during heavy rain

Provisional Amount : XPF 13,5 M / (i.e. EUR 113 130)

Operator : Environment, Conservation and Natural Resource Division (NRD)

For more details, consulte Activity statement :


Activity 3. Support tourism-related economic development

Although the British Government ensures Pitcairn Islanders' basic needs, residents would to be able to develop their capacities and plan a future in which entrepreneurship can also allow them to earn incomes. Pitcairn's history makes it a sought-after location for certain tourists, who sometimes travel long distances to discover the islands of the Bounty mutineers. INTEGRE is providing support to residents for two tourism-related projects :

  • Setting up a botanical garden
  • Making souvenirs from recycled glass

Provisional Amount : XPF 10,5 M / (i.e. EUR 87 813)

Operator : Environment, Conservation and Natural Resource Division (NRD )

For more details, consulte Activity statement :


Synthesis of planned activities on the site :


INTEGRE is a participatory project for implementing new governance forms and developing an activity programme designed and monitored by a large number of partners. Its main objective has both regional and local components: helping manage or sustainably develop OCT environments for the benefit of their communities.

INTEGRE Project was working towards the following objectives :

  • Immigration and re-population
  • Infrastructure development
  • Tourism development

On the site of Pitcairn Island, the balance of the activities is the following one :

- PN - C2P1 : Waste management


The completion of the Alternative Harbour required almost the full commitment of the Island’s workforce and heavy equipment. This caused the INTEGRE project to be delayed. A new Waste Management building has been erected and the glass crusher, plastic shredder and recycling facility are now in place. But the visit by Alice Leney was then extremely valuable it gave him the chance to actually see Pitcairn general rubbish, recyclables, hazardous waste and bulk waste such as 200 litre drums etc… General waste surveys that are developed for other islands are not always applicable to another and therefore it is most beneficial for field visits as a starting point. Alice managed to capture Pitcairn requirements within his waste management plan and it was an easy read for all to understand leaving out the technical jargon.  

The project needed a dedicated manager to ensure momentum was maintained. Too many distractions caused the work to falter on a number of occasions and resulted in increased pressure towards to end of the project to get purchasing completed before the deadline. It was identified that Pitcairn needs to reduce the number of initiatives it undertakes within the regional projects. It does not have sufficient managers to oversee a large number of undertakings. While recyclable items are being collected no arrangement exists at present for removing it from the Island. The budget for the waste management activities was exceeded by €11,000 larger due to the higher than expected cost of the required shredders. Regarding the follow up, waste collection and disposal is a critical part of remote Island life and is vital for a successful community. The new facilities will improve the process and a new role within the Public Works Division has been established to ensure oversee the ongoing operation.

For more details, consulte Activity statement : PN - C2.P1 - Integrated waste management plan

- PN-C2P2 : Erosion control


Progress of this activity has been slow due to a number of contributing factors such as harsh weather conditions at both sites, dry weather conditions and water conservation, available machinery and man power. Throughout this project, Pitcairn have gained a wealth of knowledge and have identified its strengths, weaknesses and project planning when there are multiple projects on the go.

The need for not so many projects being undertaken at one time has been clearly identified. The INTEGRE Project contained far too many initiatives to be adequately managed by the work force Time pressure on installing the culverts came mainly from the Island’s heavy equipment being not available was also a hindrance to progress.

Better planning was needed and this has resulted in the need to establish clearer and more regular communication between all parties as well as the need for a dedicated project manager in future projects.


The use of off island labour was largely a success but it needed to be far better managed. Contracts and expectations were not clearly set out prior to the work forces arrival on Island. There were also language differences, which made communication and dispute resolutions difficult. In future the GPI will be more actively involved in the recruitment process with more focus put on clearer contracts and emphasis put on some degree of speaking English.

There were also issues around the setting of budgets. The amount of matting and culverts was over estimated and was largely responsible for an under spend in this area of around €71,000.

For more details, consulte Activity statement : PN - C2.P2 - Erosion control

- PN-C2P3 : Sustainable management of resources


Both initiatives were successful but the glass blowing facility struggled to get started due to the lead person having left the Island. It is now realised that the project should have been formally handed over to another Pitcairn resident, rather than it being managed remotely as the momentum was lost. This was a bigger project than expected and the funds allocated to it were not properly used to outsource some of the more technical work. There was a significant under spend of the budget of more than €56,500 largely due to an over estimation in the costs of training and building the workshop.

Regarding the follow up, both initiatives have proven to be of value to the community which is the best way to ensure their continued success. The botanical garden has been put under the care of the Natural Resources Division which provides it with the financial and staff resources it needs.

The Glass blowing facility is about to move into its new permanent building with increased work space and storage for individual artisans. Interest remains high and visitors are responding well to the jewellery and gifts being produced.

Pour plus de détails, consulter la fiche de synthèsePN - C2P3 - Sustainable management of ressources


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