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Profile of the Chatham Islands

The Chatham Islands and its people are a unique community, isolated by 800 kilometres of ocean from mainland New Zealand.

The Chatham Islands consist of two main inhabited islands, Chatham Island and Pitt Island. Pitt Island lies 23km south east of Chatham Island and both islands are surrounded by a number of smaller islands, all within a radius of approximately 50km. The main island, Chatham, has an area of 90,000 hectares. Pitt Island has an area of 6,300 hectares.

Map of the Chatham Islands, showing the islands in relation to New Zealand mainland, and outlining Chatham Island and Pitt Island. Labelled on Chatham Island are the locations of Kaingaroa, Owenga, Te Ngaio, Waitangi, Te One, Big Bush, Port Hutt, Waitangi West, and Wharekauri.

The islands were formed by a volcanic up-thrust and the land surface is predominantly flat with a number of peaks, the largest peak rising to 188 metres. A significant landmark on the Chatham Islands is ‘Te Whanga’ which is a large lagoon that covers approximately 20,000 hectares or about one-fifth of the island’s size. There are five settlement areas on the main island – Waitangi, Te One, Owenga, Port Hutt and Kaingaroa.

The ‘livelihood’ for a majority of islanders is dependent on fishing and farming. Their continued welfare and the islands’ viability are linked with the sustainable management of the natural and physical resource base.
The Chatham Islands Council is the smallest local authority in New Zealand. It has both district and regional council responsibilities.

The islands at a glance

  • 609 people usually live in the Chatham Islands.
  • Its population is the smallest in size out of the 73 districts in New Zealand.
  • The most common occupational group on the Chatham Islands is Labourers, compared with professionals in New Zealand.
  • 56.0% of households have access to the Internet, compared with 60.5% of households throughout New Zealand.
  • 2.7% of households have access to a cellphone, compared with 74.2 % for New Zealand.
  • 46.7% of households in private occupied dwellings own the dwelling, with or without a mortgage; this is 54.5% for New Zealand.
  • There are 536 rateable properties and 102 non-rateable properties.
  • The unemployment rate in Chatham Islands Territory is 1.4% for people aged 15 years and over, compared with 5.1% for all of New Zealand.

Source: Statistics New Zealand 2006 Census Data.