The Chairman's Letter
by Tony Williams
As published in the July 2017 magazine
Welcome to another edition of The Bounty magazine and my thanks to Editor David Ransom for his splendid work in its production. I do hope that you enjoy all the varied articles.
In January the Committee of the Society met to plan not only the programme for the Spring and Autumn meetings, but also to discuss how to increase publicity for the Society, to expand its membership and continue to promote links to both Pitcairn and Norfolk Island. Raising the Society’s profile through publicity and increasing contact with other societies is one opportunity. Another will be to explore how to retain cruise ship passengers’ interest and enthusiasm for the Islands when they have returned home from their holidays, by encouraging them through on-board publicity to join the Society. Both opportunities could hopefully increase our membership. We will keep you advised of progress and we would welcome further ideas from members.
At our Spring meeting at our Doggett's Coat and Badge venue, we were privileged to welcome Honorary members of the Society André Nobbs (Former Chief Minister of Norfolk Island) and Albert Buffett (President of the Council of Elders of Norfolk Island). We were also delighted to welcome Andrew Rosindell MP (Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Britain’s Overseas Territories and Secretary to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Norfolk Island) and representatives from the Friends of British Overseas Territories Society.
André and Albert provided an update on the Norfolk Island situation regarding Australia’s unilateral action in taking over the Island, abolishing the Legislative Assembly and removing rights to self determination against the wishes of the majority of the Islanders. Australia’s attempt through colonisation to subsume the Island’s culture, heritage and its historical links to Pitcairn is of great concern.
The adverse effects and community distress that is being caused by the loss of so many of the Island’s institutions was highlighted and our Society’s members were very supportive of their campaign for the restoration of self governance. The level of commitment and tenacity shown by André and Albert in pursuit of this cause was impressive and we wish them every success. They have also agreed to assist in the strengthening of the Society’s links with the Island. They ended by presenting Norfolk Island plaques to the Society which we were delighted to receive.
I was subsequently invited to a meeting the following week at Westminster of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Norfolk Island, where André and Albert again provided their situation report to MP’s to gain further UK political support, in advance of their trip to New York to present their case to the UN.
Returning to our Spring meeting, Austin Meares, David Ransom, Paul Burnett and Doug Lawrence gave most interesting displays of their Pitcairn themed post card collections which delved into the fascinating history of the Island. My thanks for their contributions.
In the afternoon Maurice Bligh gave a film presentation “A Voyage to the South Seas” of his recent trip to Tahiti and his cruise around the Society Islands, lecturing on the Bounty and its history. This was most informative and much appreciated by the members.
Thanks as always go to John Smith for organising our ever popular auction of stamps, postal covers, books and other memorabilia, and acting as auctioneer to raise much needed funds for the Society.
In May, I attended a meeting of the Pitcairn Environment Group in London. It was a pleasure to meet Michele Christian, Pitcairn’s environment and natural resources manager. Michele reported the good news of the completion of the new alternative harbour project and the associated concrete roads, and she also updated us on other developments including plans for a new shipping vessel (in addition to Claymore II). This will be a multi-purpose vessel to carry cargo and a pod system for transporting locals and tourists to cruise ships. She told us that a five year repopulation strategic plan has also been developed as the Islanders recognise their ageing population and that they are operating at critical mass. It may well be that given the alienation of the population on Norfolk Island, one solution to preserving cultural links could be to attract some of the people back to Pitcairn.
Other Environment Group members reported on the completion of the Darwin Project (a sustainable fisheries plan for Pitcairn) and the latest results from the remote monitoring of the Pitcairn Marine Reserve, indicating successful progress in the prevention of illegal fishing. The rat eradication programme on Henderson has unfortunately proved unsuccessful and a repeat programme may be considered in 2020. On a separate note, Henderson has recently come to the world’s attention (but not in a good way) following a report and pictures of the tons of rubbish deposited on the Island from the South Pacific gyratory current. This brings the increasing problem of ocean pollution into sharp focus when pristine islands like Henderson are affected in this way.
For Pitcairn there are a number of initiatives underway to demonstrate the Island’s biodiversity and enhance tourism. These include the preparation of leaflets for cruise ships and the mapping of six self-guided walks to offer to visitors to the Island.
In all there are some exciting opportunities for the Society to support.
In closing may I wish everyone an enjoyable summer and good collecting and I look forward to seeing many of you at our Autumn meeting and AGM on 7th October.