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Pitcairn: Postscript to Empire

Pitcairn: Postscript to Empire

The sun will never set on former Auckland financial figure Leslie Jaques' assignment to Pitcairn Island. After seven years in the official role as Commissioner for Pitcairn Island he has just become a full time resident of the island with his co-director of newly formed Pitcairn Travel. She is Jacqui Christian, great, great, great, great granddaughter of Fletcher Christian, the original Bounty mutineer.

Appointed by the British Government as Commissioner of Pitcairn Island Jaques’ involvement began in turmoil when he was charged with quite literally imposing imperial writ on Britain’s most remote territory.

At one stage this role saw Jaques supervising a regime in which soon-to-be prisoners built their own prison on the island.

Of his seven years as Commissioner Jaques will only say now that Pitcairn’s troubles are behind the island. “That period is over. It is finished. Pitcairn is now a great place to be.”

He and Jacqui Christian, an Australian-registered pharmacist, see a methodical and orderly approach to tourism as the answer to the island’s new woe which is economic. Until 20 years ago the staple of the Pitcairn economy was philately, issuing new postage stamps for the world’s ardent collectors of that era. Then emails started killing world postal services, and thus stamp collecting too.

In their new start up venture they are joined by Australian Tony Mowbray, solo round-the-world yachtsman, and survivor of the storm-tossed 1998 Sydney to Hobart yacht race and who sails tourists to Pitcairn from the nearest landing strip in French Polynesia.

Born in Britain in 1952 Jaques came to New Zealand in 1980 as a specialist in trade finance. An Establishment figure he led for many years the British New Zealand Business Association, an imperial institution from the days in which virtually all New Zealand’s trade was with the UK. It was for his work with this institution that Jaques was awarded his OBE.

Administered from New Zealand via the British legation there, Jaques’ was the reliable set of hands, in which Her Majesty’s Government placed responsibility for the island. His tenure in effect was until such time as Pitcairn had receded from the headlines and resumed its normal position on the far horizon of Commonwealth affairs.

Contemplating his transition from a colonial era role to that of an entrepreneurial one amid the palm trees and the trackless wastes of the Pacific, Jaques believes he has a responsibility and indeed a destiny.

His duty to put the island on an ethical footing is accomplished. Now though begins a personal one, as he sees it, of fixing its economy long term. The establishment of Pitcairn Travel, a full service operator, is the first building block.


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