After 200-Year Prohibition Liquor Now Flows On Pitcairn Island
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Adamstown, Pitcairn Islands/South Pacific, 10.04.2009 / APD

Bounty Bay at Pitcairn

Bounty Bay at Pitcairn

Foto: Pitcairn Study Center

The tiny Pitcairn Island, home to some 60 descendants of the sailors of the famed mutiny on the Bounty - which hasn't had too good a history with the stuff in the past - now has laws permitting the consumption of alcoholic beverages.

An ordinance permitting the sale and consumption of liquor on Pitcairn has been signed by the island's Wellington-based governor on March 17, 2009. It carries the weight of law on the island. Interestingly enough, the ordinance prohibits the consumption of liquor by the Pitcairners while they are on Henderson, Ducie and Oeno, the other islands of the four-island Pitcairn group.

The distances of these islands from Pitcairn vary from 75 to nearly 300 miles. The consumption of an alcoholic beverage manufactured from the ti plant, an evergreen flowering plant in the family Liliacea, on Pitcairn by two of the Bounty sailors shortly after they arrived at Pitcairn in 1789 is credited with contributing to both suicide and murder on the island over a period of several years. Thereafter liquor was banned on Pitcairn Island for more than 200 years.

The new Pitcairn liquor law bans the sale of liquor or consumption of it to islanders under the age of 18, a departure from the New Zealand Sale of Liquor Act of 1989 which allows parents to supply liquor to their children, and to supply minors in the privacy of their homes.

However, Pitcairn homeowners may obtain a license to serve liquor for consumption on their premises “provided the liquor is sold only to persons who are residing in those premises as accommodation guests. This provision supports Pitcairn's relatively recent world-wide outreach to tourists, all of whom must live in the homes of Pitcairn families since there is no tourist housing on the tiny one-mile-wide-by-two-miles-long island.

The law also bans consumption of liquor in the island's school, its public square, on its public roads, its eco trail, its general store, museum, medical center, and at the island's boat landing. According to the new law, the Pitcairn Island Council may grant permission for limited use in these island facilities or places for a limited period of time.

Special attention is given in the law to a required sobriety of crew members of Pitcairn's two longboats which are the only means of landing supplies or passengers from passing ships onto the island because Pitcairn has no harbor.

No person being a member of the working crew on supply ship days, including cargo handlers at ship and shore, shall consume liquor while working longboats are in the water, the law requires.

No person being a member of the longboat crew, including cargo handlers at ship and shore, shall, after notice has been received of the impending arrival of any ship, consume liquor during the 12-hour period (prior) to the estimated arrival of the ship.

No person shall drive or be in command of or operate any vessel or machinery while under the influence of alcohol, according to the new law. Fines of NZD$100 or NZD$250 are to be lifted for such violations.

A first offender who drives a motor vehicle or commands or operates a vessel or machinery under the influence of alcohol on Pitcairn Island is given a fine of NZD$250 and/or prohibition from driving any motor vehicle or commanding or operating any vessel or machinery for a period of up to six months. A second offender surrenders the same amount of money, with his or her driving or operating prohibition being for a period of up to 12 months.

However, this part of the law has a big loophole in it: It shall be a defense to this offense if a person drives a motor vehicle or commands or operates a vessel or machinery with the genuine and reasonable belief that there is an emergency requiring that he or she drive that vehicle or command or operate that vessel, the law states. The motor vehicles operated on Pitcairn Island are mostly four-wheeled all-terrain vehicles (ATV's).

The Pitcairn Islands group is a British Overseas Territory. It comprises the islands of Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno. Pitcairn is the only inhabited island, with the capital Adamstown. The New Zealand dollar (NZD) is the currency of Pitcairn Island. [The Editor, Herb Ford, is Director of the "Pitcairn Island Study Centre" at the Seventh-day Adventist "Pacific Union College" (PUC) in Angwin, California/USA.]

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