Work and Employment

There are no shortage of jobs on the Chatham Islands and the unemployment rate is well below the national average.

Fishing, farming  and tourism operators provide the bulk of work opportunities on both Chatham and Pitt Islands.

The Department of Conservation is also one of the biggest employers on the Islands



The fishing industry generates 60% of the income on the islands and employs a third of all workers.

The sustainably-harvested species that these islands are world-famous for include rock lobster (crayfish), paua (abalone) and blue cod.

The majority of Chatham Islands seafood products are exported to Asian destinations such as China and Japan.

Visitors to the islands can buy seafood from several vendors on the Chathams, but the opportunity to catch your own is also part of the allure for visitors, with good fishing available from any of the wharves. For the more determined fisherman, commercial chartered fishing trips can be arranged from most Chatham Island ports.

The commercial fishing industry is managed through a quota system, which limits catch sizes and access to the fishery. The quotas are held, in part, by local individuals, organisations and Iwi, with the balance held offshore.



The tourism sector on the Chatham Islands has grown into a viable and vibrant industry and many islanders benefit from the growth of this industry.

Visitor numbers are carefully managed and are dependent on the availability of accommodation. Tourists enjoy the island’s natural environment and wildlife along with its unique cultural heritage and remote location.

The Chatham Islands really are a special part of New Zealand that not everyone gets to see.


Farming & Forestry

Sheep and Cattle farming are essential to the local economy.

There are about 45,000 hectares in production.

Farming trends and the lower returns resulted in many of the island’s larger sheep farms diversifying into livestock rearing  and beef farming. These days, with global prices for all primary commodities increasing, sheep and wool are considered more profitable and some farmers are shedding cattle numbers and increasing sheep flocks, as Chatham Island’s sheep are renowned for growing premium fleeces.

Some landowners have successfully grown Macrocarpa and/or Pinus Radiata plantations.  It takes approximately 25 years for these trees to reach maturity, making forestry a long term investment.

Doing business on Chatham Islands

Chatham Islanders are a very resourceful and entrepreneurial group of people. With a limited customer base and their main markets located on the mainland, doing business requires significant skills in relationship building and partnerships. It also requires business partners to commit to long term outcomes.


The Chatham Islands Council operates as both a district and regional council. This means that the council is not only responsible for roads and waste management, but also for resource management and bio-security.


The Chatham Islands Enterprise Trust was established in 1991 with the aid of an $8 million government grant and the transfer of central assets such as the ports, airport and electricity generation.  The Trust’s main objective is to promote the economic development and well-being of the community.

The Trust exists to provide essential commercial enterprises that would not otherwise be provided in such a small and remote community.

Economy and Industry

The Chatham Islanders are economically dependent on fishing, farming and more recently; tourism


Over two thirds of the Chatham Island’s population has a school or post-school qualification. The median age is 37 years.

Internet and Communications

Most Chatham Islands households have telephones and fax capabilities and dial-up or satellite broadband internet access.

There is no cell phone coverage on the Chatham Islands.

TVNZ can be viewed on the islands along with commercial TV networks. There is also a locally owned and volunteer operated Chatham Islands Television which has its own distinctive must-view characteristics.

The “Chatham Islander” is a monthly newspaper which keeps islanders up to date with local news and shipping activities.  Most islanders utilise the internet for weather forecasts and news updates.

Visitors can access the internet through WiFi at most of the Chatham Islands accommodation providers.




Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.
Sign up to receive our newsletter
Keep up with all the latest news and promotions from the Chatham Islands