Norfolk Island Reform Update Issue 3—August 2015

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Message from the Administrator

The Norfolk Island economy relies heavily on the rest of Australia with over 80 per cent of tourism visits coming from the mainland.

Norfolk Island has been a part of the Australian story since 1788 and it is a story worth telling. The penal colony building remains at Kingston and Arthur's Vale is a key part of the World Heritage Listed Australian Convict Sites. All Australians share the passion Norfolk Island residents have for this built history from the first and second British settlements.

Visitors are fascinated by the broader Norfolk Island story, the settlement of the Polynesians and the settlement of the Bounty Mutineer descendants after 1856.

The Norfolk Island part of the Australian story continues to evolve through citizenship, language, currency, media, new government services and new social support initiatives like Medicare, which will support the local community from 1 July 2016. This support will underpin the traditions of individuals and families as it does all around our nation.

As Australia is the most culturally and linguistically diverse nation in the world, our government services extend to all in need regardless of race, creed or tradition. While Australians are all united under our core values and symbols, what we have in common provides a secure framework to keep our family and individual family traditions strong.

Norfolk Island's local and family cultures are based on personal experiences and traditions which will be strengthened through the reform process. Most Australians embrace diversity with interest and respect. Difference is celebrated.

The sharing of cultural practices of communities, big and small, across our diverse Australia, ensures our nation and our cultural diversity remains strong.

The Hon Gary Hardgrave

Cascade Pier upgrade surges ahead

The Cascade Pier was constructed circa 1850 and was a vital piece of infrastructure during the whaling days. The Pier is now an important link for freight and cruise ship passenger arrivals as well as a launching point for fishing vessels. Of the two piers on Norfolk Island, Cascade Pier is used for the majority of operations.

Upgrading a pier takes significant work, particularly when it is important infrastructure. Economic activity is expected to increase during construction and a safer port environment may facilitate opportunities for further increased cruise ship visits and improved freight handling.

For this reason, the Australian Government has committed $13 million to upgrade Cascade Pier to specifically increase its operating life and improve safety for passenger and freight movements.

I have been provided with the following update of works from WorleyParsons and the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

Current status

Works to explore the practicality of the pier design as proposed originally by the Norfolk Island Government is well underway. This includes an assessment by qualified WorleyParsons marine engineers of some of the original design assumptions. WorleyParsons has completed a geophysical report providing information on water depth and geology in the environs of the existing pier. Rock samples have also been collected on Island to inform the design for construction.

Following consultations with stakeholders, design options for the Cascade Pier upgrade have been refined. WorleyParsons has consulted with Carnival Cruises on their requirements.

Pier design options

The current options being considered for the Pier upgrade include:

  1. a 26m extension along the current alignment; and
  2. a 26m extension, angled further towards the west.

Raising the current deck level and replacement of the existing fishermans crane with a fixed hydraulic crane capable of lifting fishing boats and purpose built barges is also being considered. Further stakeholder consultation is underway with key users of the pier, including Lighterage and the Fishing Club.

The two designs are now undergoing physical testing at the Manly Hydraulic Lab in Sydney to determine berth calmness under operating conditions, and wave overtopping effects to improve pedestrian safety. Models of the two designs are being tested in a wave basin, constructed using the geophysical data collected.

In parallel with the testing, a roll-on roll-off ramp which may be used for both vessel launching and as a heavy equipment transition area are also being considered, provided they can be accommodated in the project budget.

During stakeholder consultations, alternate design options for the Cascade Pier were put forward. WorleyParsons has provided the following technical reasons why these options are not considered practical.

An alternate submission included a ‘weir’ design. It was concluded this proposal has a number of significant shortcomings which have not been costed. It would result in possible delays in completing the upgrade due to new environmental approvals required; it included an insufficient working face for the existing lighterage operations to support future barge operations; it would require significant dredging and civil works to facilitate the alternate designs and it would result in reduced vessel safety due to wave refraction.

The ‘weir’ design would also require additional clearance of pavement to allow vessels to safely enter the area, rather than use the berthing area to the north where the water is deeper. Purpose-built vessels would need to be constructed; and the existing lighterage would be unable to enter this area as they have no propulsion. The proposed walkways would be more exposed to storm surges and while a hydraulic gate would assist with freight transfers, it is a high maintenance element.

The geophysical testing undertaken so far shows a rock below the water surface (also known as a bommie) located to the north west of the existing pier. While there is significant merit in providing a pier extension angled towards the west to reduce the wave climate for north-easterly swell conditions, careful consideration of the bommie position is required to ensure navigational safety is maintained.

The preferred Cascade Pier upgrade design option will be selected following the outcome of the physical modelling, rock testing and stakeholder consultation. This option will then undergo detailed costing. An independent review of the design proposed by WorleyParsons will be undertaken to confirm that the design is both practical and able to be constructed.

Once this final option is confirmed and costed, construction drawings will be finalised and a tender specification will be prepared for release to the market.

You may have heard…

There are going to be changes soon at the hospital.

The Norfolk Island community should be aware that no decisions have been made relating to health services on Norfolk Island. Health services will continue to be delivered on Norfolk Island as they currently are, while the Australian Government works to understand the needs of the community and how the health services may need to change for consistency with the mainland systems.

Changes, when they are eventually made, will be informed by the results of the KPMG study to ensure access to accredited health services, including aged care. The KPMG study will be released when finalised. I will continue to consult with the Advisory Council on health and other matters important to the community.

Did you know? …

The Australian Government funding commitment to Norfolk Island is significant?

The Australian Government provided $24.8 million in financial assistance and emergency funding to the former Norfolk Island Government between 2010–11 and 2014–15 inclusive.

A further $5.774 million is available for the Administration of Norfolk Island in 2015–16. This equates to $30.574 million in funding since 1 July 2010.

In addition, a total of $5.7 million has been provided to support Norfolk Island reforms (micro economic reforms, financial statement audits, Commonwealth Financial Officer funding and the Pest and Diseases Survey) from 2012–13 to 2014–15 inclusive.

The Australian Government continues to underwrite the air service to Norfolk Island. This has provided a constant and affordable air service since the failure of previous arrangements in 2011–12.

The Kingston and Arthur's Vale Historic Area (KAVHA) remains an important cultural area for the Norfolk Island Community and Australia. The Australian Government has, for many decades, contributed to the cost of running KAVHA, and provides approximately $630,000 in funding for the site each year to help ensure it remains a key heritage area and tourist attraction for Norfolk Island. The Administration of Norfolk Island contributes in the order of $300,000 per annum towards KAHVA.

You may have heard…

…Australia makes tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars each year from Norfolk Island's territorial commercial fishing waters and the Australian Government is hindering a commercial fishing industry for Norfolk Island. This is NOT true.

The waters around Norfolk Island will always be an important resource for the Norfolk Island community. The fresh fish and seafood available on the Island is a major drawcard for tourists. There may be opportunities for businesses to build on Norfolk Island's already impressive reputation as a recreational fishing destination.

Australia has sovereign rights to explore and develop, conserve and manage the living and non-living natural resources found within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) waters surrounding Norfolk Island. On 1 August 1994, Australia declared the EEZ extending 200 nautical miles from its coastline (i.e. from the low water mark). The declaration of the Australian EEZ is consistent with the actions taken by other maritime nations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). UNCLOS grants Australia and other nations the opportunity to manage the various resources within their EEZs.

While small volumes of fish are caught and sold locally, there is no large scale commercial fishing undertaken in the waters immediately surrounding Norfolk Island. Despite some reports that the Australian Government has profited from millions of dollars from fishing activities in the waters surrounding Norfolk Island, this is untrue; no profits have been made.

The Australian Government does not collect any royalties, resource ‘rent’ or additional taxes on profits from commercial fishing within its waters. The Australian Government has not sold or leased fishing rights to foreign countries to fish the waters around Norfolk Island. The Norfolk Island Inshore Fishery (NIIF) incorporates the waters 67 nautical miles by 40 nautical miles surrounding Norfolk Island. The Norfolk Island Inshore Fishery Management Policy 2009 supports approximately 100 small vessels and is the basis of management of recreational and charter fishing.

Fishers do not pay a fee to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) to access fishing resources. They need to acquire a concession from an existing fisher and then pay ongoing management fees, which go towards research and managing the fisheries.

Some in the community have pointed to data from the Sea Around Us Project (SAUP), which claims catches of 67,000 tonnes between 1979 and 2006, at an estimated market value of approximately USD$247 million.

This consists primarily of catches of tuna, billfish and other pelagic fish taken in Commonwealth fisheries that operate in the EEZ, but not in the waters immediately surrounding Norfolk Island. Australian Government data from AFMA shows between 2000 and 2006, the actual catch from the EEZ around Norfolk Island was less than 12 per cent of the catch amount SAUP reports over this comparable period.

I acknowledge the strong and ongoing community interest in ensuring sustainable management of fisheries in waters surrounding Norfolk Island. AFMA is the Australian Government agency responsible for the efficient management and sustainable use of Commonwealth fish resources on behalf of the Australian community.

AFMA is responsible for fisheries management in Australia's EEZ and also for managing Norfolk Island fisheries from an Australian Government perspective. This includes policing the waters for fishing ‘poachers’.

For further information visit the Australian Fisheries Management Authority website

Have your Say, Find out More

Your feedback is important to us. If you have a question about changes that commence from 1 July 2016, you can confidentially contact the Administrator. You are also encouraged to contact the Administrator if you have any topics you would like in future editions of this newsletter.