2 Sep 2010

Kiribati's Christmas Island resettlement plans contingent on water

7:35 pm on 2 September 2010

Plans by the Kiribati government to move residents from overcrowded Tarawa to Christmas Island depend on securing water supplies.

The New Zealand Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, who's visiting the country's biggest island, has pledged to double government aid to help ease Kiribati's population pressures.

Radio New Zealand International's News Editor says the five thousand people living on Chistmas Island have taken up residence over the past decade in a rather uncoordinated fashion.

Walter Zweifel says the Kiribati government's now considering moving people there from Tarawa, in a controlled way, and developing the infrastructure to support them.

"The resettlement is in part contingent on water supply and although this island is very large and accounts for about a third of the land mass of Kiribati, it does get very little rain. A tourism official says they've had periods of up to four years without any rainfall. However he says if you dig into the ground you find groundwater but this is possibly not sufficient to sustain large numbers of people."

Radio New Zealand International's News Editor, Walter Zweifel, reporting from Christmas Island.