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Plans to shift Kiribati locals to Christmas Island

Fri, 03 Sep 2010 6:37p.m 3News.co.nz By Patrick Gower at Christmas Island

Last night 3 News reported from the over-crowded Pacific island of Tarawa in the Kiribati chain. Now we look at a New Zealand Government solution to solve the over-crowding: ship people 3,000 kilometres away to another of the Kiribati islands – the tiny atoll of Christmas Island.

There is plenty of room on Christmas Island; the prison is so free and easy you just walk on in; even the criminals are happy.

“I'm paying for it in prison, and I am glad to serve it, because I commit a crime," says prisoner Enna Teeta.

The convicts want a new kitchen but the island's hopes are much greater than that.They want to build a cruise ship terminal.

"We want to make this beach a golden beach for tourism," says local Kartz Taoba.

But it won't just be tourists flocking here.

Kiribati president Anote Tong sees it as a solution for its overcrowded problem atoll Tarawa, where tens of thousands live in slums. They could be shipped here – over 3,000km across the Pacific; just don't tell the locals.

"Too many people will ruin the beauty of the island; if they come here there will be not enough water for a start,” says mayor Tiim Takeiti.

But Foreign Minister Murray McCully has got on board the transfer idea; the $7 million Kiribati gets in aid is set to double and much will go to developing Christmas Island's tourism industry so there are jobs when they get here.

Moving thousands of families here is not as easy as politicians think. It could easily wreck Christmas Island as a tourist attraction and simply shift Tarawa's problems across the ocean

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