This chapter explains the likely consequences of proposals to resettle large numbers of people away from the Pacific Islands for the people left behind. It does this by describing the effects of large-scale migration away from the small island state of Niue, which is a very good analogue from which lessons for other islands can be drawn.
The chapter begins by examining the discourse on large-scale migration as a solution to save the people of the Pacific Islands from the impacts of climate change. The discourse of draining the people from these remote island backwaters of the world persists even though understanding of vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in the Pacific Islands remains extremely limited. In this discourse there is little concern for the needs and rights of migrants, and no consideration of the consequences of such movements for those people who cannot or do not wish to move. It is this latter issue that this chapter examines.
There has been large-scale migration from Niue since 1971, to the extent that 80 per cent of the people born in Niue now live in New Zealand. There are six principal effects of this depopulation on those who remain on the island, namely that it leads to: distortions in markets; obsolescent political and administrative institutions; a hyper-concentration of social capital; increased demands on labour; difficulties in defining and maintaining that which is ‘traditional’; and an erosion of Niuean identity.
Based on this examination, the chapter argues that migration is likely to be an impact of climate change as much as it is to be an adaptation. Mitigation and adaptation must therefore be the preferred strategies, although there may be scope for carefully managed labour migration as part of a suite of adaptation strategies.