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UK in New Zealand

London 16:04, 25 Feb 2013
Wellington 05:04, 26 Feb 2013
Last updated at 3:58 (UK time) 29 Jun 2009


Pitcairn was first settled in 1790 by some of the HMS Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian companions. The island was left uninhabited between 1856 and 1859 when the entire population was resettled on Norfolk Island. The present community are descended from two groups who returned to Pitcairn in 1859 and 1864, after deciding they didn't wish to stay on Norfolk.

The island is a British settlement under the British Settlements Act of 1887, although the Islanders usually date their recognition as a British territory to a constitution of 1838 devised with the help of a visiting Royal Navy officer. In 1893, 1898 and 1940, further changes were made in the Islands Government. In 1952 responsibility for Pitcairn was transferred from the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific to the Governor of Fiji. When Fiji became independent the Pitcairn Royal Instructions of 1970 effectively became the modern constitution of Pitcairn, establishing the office of the Governor and regulating their powers and duties. In practice, the British High Commissioner to New Zealand also holds the role of Non-Resident Governor of Pitcairn. Pitcairn Islanders manage their internal affairs through the Island Council, for which annual elections are held.

The laws of Pitcairn are laid out in the Pitcairn Order 1970, together with the Pitcairn Royal Instructions 1970. Under these the Governor is Pitcairn's lawmaker, and he is empowered to pass laws on any subject. The approval of the UK's Foreign Secretary is required before certain types of laws can be passed.