Federal Budget - Indian Ocean Territories

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Number: A31/2019

Relevant: Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands

Date: 5 April 2019

Dear Residents of the Indian Ocean Territories,

This week, the Government announced the 2019-20 Budget, including initiatives to support the Indian Ocean Territories. The Budget provides a mix of short and long-term benefits for our community.

It is important to remember that the first step to diversifying and building a strong economy is to have a solid plan. For Christmas Island in particular, we need to move away from the boom / bust cycles of the past and capitalise on our rich and diverse opportunities. Any solid vision for the future needs to be strategic, have a strong foundation and buy-in from the community, business sector and Government. This is what we are doing.

We are undertaking a number of initiatives, including a Strategic Assessment of Christmas Island, to provide certainty about land use for future investment and faster processes for environmental and heritage assessments. Last year the Australian Government also provided $200,000 for development of Strategic Plans for Christmas Island (CI) and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands (CKI). These Plans are now complete and implementation is underway.

This week's Federal Budget has provided $500,000 to kick start a range of projects from the Plans. I will work hard with the Regional Development Organisation and you to identify the most important projects for this round of funding. I will provide more information in coming weeks about the process we will go through and how you can contribute. While I understand some in the community are disappointed and calling for more funding, it is important that we consider the context of other funding the Australian Government provides to the Indian Ocean Territories.

We have worked hard to secure funding for this new initiative funded under the $115.6 million for delivering services and maintaining infrastructure. There is also funding in the Budget for the project to replace the crane and mooring at the Port (a $26 million project that will commence very soon). Other recent funding from the Government includes $675,000 provided to the Tourism Associations to support marketing as well as funding to support the recently established position of Regional Investment Officer.

As you know, tourism is vital to the growth of our economy and to creating jobs. I am pleased to announce that the Government is providing $75,000 to promote the Territories through joint television advertising, updating the "Australia's Indian Ocean Island" website, and promoting the Territories in Voyeur, Virgin Australia's in-flight magazine. This will happen prior to the end of June this year.

Through the Budget, the Government is also supporting more work around tourism to identify new markets and an action plan to capitalise on these opportunities. We will also examine the Flying Fish Cove to identify investment options to ensure it is a welcoming, vibrant and attractive area for the community and tourists. I will provide more information about both of these initiatives in due course and, once complete, I will advocate for more funding as we move into the building and construction phase.

With respect to the likely closure of the Detention Centre in July, I understand there will be mixed feelings in the community. For me, the re-opening and potential closing of the Detention Centre simply highlights how important it is that we, as a community, keep looking towards and building the future we want to create. We need to finish the planning work we have started and see it through to full implementation. As mentioned, that is starting now with the kick-start of new initiatives funded in the Budget.

This is the best way for us to deliver a strong future for our beautiful and unique Islands.

If you have any questions about any of the matters outlined above, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am here as the Government's representative and to advocate on behalf of each and every member of our community. I am committed to doing this, and my door is always open.

Natasha Griggs
Administrator Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands