Pearls and politics : the impact of the development of the cultured-pearl industry on Manihiki.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This study attempts to discern the effects of a new industry on a small, isolated, coral atoll in the central Pacific: pearl farming in the lagoon of Manihiki, in the Northern Group of the Cook Islands. Through a combination of archival research, interviews and participant observation, I discuss the historical development of the cultured-pearl industry as a precursor to analysing the contemporary situation. The research design utilised in the study reflects the position of the researcher as a member of the researched community. A rudimentary theoretical framework is proposed, based on the need for a multi-disciplinary approach to studying the Pacific, by combining Development Theory with other relevant approaches, e.g., Mirab, Smallness. Political control of the industry lies with the Manihiki Island Council, whose view of development has conflicted with that of central government and has disturbed the relationship between Manihiki and Rarotonga. As the industry continues to develop, Manihiki will become more dependent on Rarotonga, and control of the industry will probably return to central government. Socially, the industry has caused an occupational change from gathering wild shell to farming. Families remain the main economic unit of production, but alterations to their income structure and labour allocation result from their level of involvement with farming. A reversal of migration and remittance patterns appears to be occurring, as migrants are attracted back to Manihiki by the development of farming and more money flows out of Manihiki than in. These results suggest that some ideas on Pacific Island dependence need to be reconsidered.