Nestled between Australia and New Zealand lies the peaceful island community of Norfolk; the jewel of the Pacific Ocean. Used predominantly as a convict penal settlement from the 1788 to 1855 the first civilian residence appeared on the island one year later in 1856. Under the rule of the UK until 1913 it was handed over to Australian administration as one of its first external territories. Since then it has been a thriving island community with a small population of around 2,200. However, this article isn’t going to be focusing on immigrating to the Norfolk island (home to the rare Norfolk pine), in fact up until recently to emigrate to Norfolk Island would be a difficult feat to achieve as the island’s strict immigration policy was only relaxed in 2012. No, what makes Norfolk such an interesting place is that while it is does fall under the banner of the Commonwealth of Australia it has its own Immigration Act separate to that of the mainland. Indeed, much of Norfolk’s history has focused on the Island community being completely self-governed despite it still being considered and Australian territory. This however will soon cease to be the case as recently the Australian government has decided that the immigration policy and procedures in place will be standardised to Australian mainland policies.
From the 1st of July 2016, Norfolk Island will be integrated into the Australian migration zone. This will mean that any tourist that is not an Australian citizen must apply for an Australian visa to visit. However extending the Australian migration zone isn’t the only change occurring. Currently for an Australian citizen to travel to Norfolk Island they need to carry either a passport or proof of identity to enter as a tourist, this is an unprecedented situation where to travel to an Australian external territory is not considered domestic travel. With the coming changes due next month, Norfolk Island will be considered to fall within the Australian migration zone and travel from the mainland to this Island settlement will be considered domestic travel.
Included in the changes to the governance of Norfolk’s immigration and customs functions will be a permanent Australian Border Force (ABF) presence on the island. This will help regulate foreign nationals and Australian citizens travelling between Norfolk to other overseas destinations as it will be subject to the Australian immigration requirements, in accordance with the Migration Act 1958 and the Migration Regulations 1994.
Outside of these changes, people and goods arriving in and departing from Norfolk Island will continue to cross customs borders and remain categorised as international movements. Interestingly enough there will be no customs duties, GST or other forms of indirect taxes on goods arriving in Norfolk Island. With the introduction of new customs arrangements, the existing Norfolk Island Customs Act and Customs Regulations will be repealed.
These impending changes to the Norfolk immigration system will not affect the current mainland Australia requirements for goods that are exported to and imported from Norfolk Island.
With so many changes to occur, some of which are yet to be released by the Australian government, the question to be asked is why are these changes being implemented? As one of Australia’s oldest territories to date (colonised 7 weeks after the colonisation of Sydney) still standing, Norfolk Island has shown resilience where other mainland communities have fallen. The Australian government still holds the Island community in high esteem and very much remembers the people of this small settlement. So it is no surprise that when population numbers began to drop, as well as their economic wealth, something had to be done to help make Norfolk Island more economically sustainable.
By reducing the entry requirements permanent residents of both Australian and New Zealand mainlanders need increases the accessibility of the island and it is hopeful that this new reform will boost the island’s main source of revenue, tourism. Norfolk has always been known as a tax exempt haven. The bulk of their economy was raised through import duty, fuel levy, Medicare levy, GST of 12% and local and international calls. However, this is considered by the wider world community as risk when taking into consideration the economic viability of this form of governance. Eventually the debts acquired through an inconsistent form of taxation grew to such an amount where their local government offered to voluntarily surrender its tax free status in return for a financial bailout from the Australian federal government.
While many residents of Norfolk Island are opposed to the intervention by the Australian government there are those that argue that it is necessary in order to provide some stability within their diminished economy. Regardless of the general consensus, this move to incorporate Australian mainland policies to the island community of Norfolk will help to boost tourism numbers. In turn, increased tourism will help to build a positive future for the community of Norfolk, keeping the island inhabited for at least another 150 years.