Dreaming of tissue in Tahiti

Tissue converting isn’t exactly the first image that springs to mind when one thinks about Tahiti. In fact, it would be safe to bet that tissue converting is most probably NEVER the first image that comes to mind when one mentions Tahiti!

Hugh O’Brian

For most people the word Tahiti brings to mind images of beautiful islands, white beaches, palm trees and crystal clear water in varying tints of blue and azure. It’s true that Tahiti has all of these wonderful natural aspects. But on top of this, it is also home to two small tissue converting companies, Tikitea and Polyouate. Tahiti is the biggest island in the territory of French Polynesia.

Populated by about 250,000 people, French Polynesia is spread out over four main groups of islands which in total are made up of more than one hundred islands. Including all the water, French Polynesia covers an area equivalent to the size of Western Europe. Other fairly well-known islands included in this territory are places such as Bora Bora, Moorea, Huahine, and Raiatea.

IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC. French Polynesia is located in the South Pacific Ocean about halfway between South America and Australia. The 118 islands of French Polynesia are thought to have been created by volcanoes which came up from the ocean around 20 million years ago. The islands in the Society, Marquesas, Austral and Gambier Island groups remained high islands, while the islands of the Tuamotu Islands group became atolls, which are islands that have long ago sunk below the ocean surface, leaving only the barrier reef.

The original Polynesians are thought to have been wayfarers that came from Southeast Asia some 4,000 years ago. They were known to be master navigators, exploring other island groups around them. Their remote location generally kept them isolated from the rest of the world until the European explorations of the 1700s. Spanish explorers discovered the Marquesas Islands in 1595 although true contact between the Polynesians and European explorers did not begin until the discovery of Tahiti by the English in 1767. After decades of rivalries between Britain and France over the ownership of the islands of Tahiti, France declared the islands as a protectorate in 1843. Just over a century later, in 1944, the islands became an overseas territory of France. The first real move toward autonomy for French Polynesia began in 1984 with the passage of a new law that recognized the identity and personality of the French Polynesians. The position of President of the Government was established, which placed much control in the hands of the local government, which was also allowed to enter into international agreements.

TODAY, FRENCH POLYNESIA IS LARGELY RESPONSIBLE FOR ITS OWN AFFAIRS, with some responsibilities remaining with France, such as currency and defense. The currency unit is the French Pacific Franc (XPF) which is pegged at the rate of 119.33 XPF to the Euro. There are two official languages, French and Tahitian. Since 1962, when France stationed military personnel in the region, French Polynesia has changed from a subsistence agricultural economy to one in which a high proportion of the work force is either employed by the military or the tourist industry. However, with the halt of French nuclear testing in 1996, the military contribution to the economy fell sharply. Tourism now accounts for about one-fourth of the GDP and is a primary source to attract outside earnings. Other sources of income are pearl farming and deep-sea commercial fishing, as well as a small manufacturing sector that primarily processes agricultural products. Most of the economic and industrial activity is centered around Papeete (pronounced pah-pee-tay), the capital city. The island of Tahiti, with a population of 140,000, is by far the biggest and most populous island in French Polynesia. Still it is very small, with a circumference of only 100 km and it takes just two hours to drive around the whole island. As the island is an ancient volcano it means that the interior is very steep and rugged. This leaves the ring road around the island as the main transport route. There is even a small section of motorway near Papeete, which is often blocked by traffic jams in the morning and evening. Now, that is something else you would not imagine about Tahiti! •

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