Remote Island To Welcome Tourists

Saturday, March 31st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) _ The 44 inhabitants of a remote island in the South Pacific plan to share their rocky home with tourists, ending two centuries of isolation that began when mutineers from the British warship Bounty landed and settled there.

A New Zealand consortium plans to build a 30-room, four-star hotel, two tourist lodges and an airstrip on Pitcairn Island _ a volcanic outcrop in the Pacific Ocean between New Zealand and Peru, The Weekend Australian newspaper reported.

If approved, the airstrip would revolutionize life on the island, one of the world's most remote places and currently accessible only by boat from New Zealand _ an eight day voyage. Islanders receive mail about three times each year.

A few cruise ships stop each year in Pitcairn, but tourists do not stay on the island.

Islanders hope the improved communications with the outside world will reverse a slump in Pitcairn's population, which has shrunk to 44 from about 230 during World War II. Pitcairn's inhabitants are descendants of Bounty mutineers who landed there in 1790.

Children born on the island are sent to high school in New Zealand and many never return.

Islanders recently voted for their governor, British High Commissioner to New Zealand Martin Williams, to begin negotiations with the New Zealand consortium, Wellesley Pacific, on tourist development.

The island has made international headlines in recent weeks because of allegations of sexual assaults among the inhabitants. British and New Zealand police are investigating the claims.