Administrator Eric Hutchinson Christmas message

17 December 2021

May I take this opportunity to wish everyone on Norfolk Island a very Happy and Holy Christmas. The second Christmas with the pall of a pandemic hanging around our shoulders and a year that on reflection has presented challenges we have overcome and opportunities that we have capitalised upon. It speaks of the resilience of this community and is perhaps, just how things are, or a metaphor for life even. No question Norfolk Island has been the best place on Earth from which to view the madness displayed in much of the rest of the world.

One truth is, as I recall suggesting in early April 2020 -- it was always going to be easier going into an Emergency Declaration than coming out of it – it has proven to be thus. Notwithstanding all those involved within EMNI, NIHRACS, NIRC and other community support agencies deserve our thanks and gratitude for a job well done over the past eighteen months. Just as this community should be acknowledged for the high proportion of people who have been willing to get vaccinated. Now we need to learn to live with this going forward, to all get on with our lives, otherwise what was the point of getting vaccinated at all – we can’t remain like rabbits in the glare of headlights forever…

Again I take this opportunity to thank the former elected members of the Regional Council for the courageous decision to commission the Nexia and Grassroots reports on the business of council. It has not been an easy time for them personally, but I am confident that this will be an opportunity to establish this community service business on a sustainable financial and governance footing for the future. It is an opportunity and should be viewed as such with the aim being to create a business that is supported by an appropriate contribution from the community in the form of rates and charges and where the Commonwealth meets its obligations in respect of infrastructure upgrades. Differences of opinion, should not distort the evidence based reality of the challenge the Council faces, nor be used to twist and characterise the intentions of others to suit a political agenda, perhaps it is inevitable but indeed such behaviour is most destructive for this community.

To those community members who have participated in a range of advisory committees from KAVHA to Freight Working Groups and in particular to those who have put their names forward to participate on the newly established Council Committees – thank you for taking an interest in the future of your community. In respect of the latter; I trust this will provide a window into the operations of the NIRC business and a greater understanding of what drives it. Knowledge is power and I’m confident we will see a new group of community leaders stepping up in the next few years.

So much progress has been made this year by Council in partnership with the Commonwealth on Waste Management, Water and Sewerage and Electricity Generation. An upgrade to the Water Assurance Scheme and the development of a Food Security Strategy for Norfolk Island is progressing and it is easy to feel the momentum and support that exists within a broad cross-section of the community to see healthier local food produced and accessible to locals and visitors alike. I recognise the genesis of this work by the NIRC to support the development of a Population Strategy for Norfolk Island. This aligns with work being done to update the Plant and Diseases Survey, a Bee Survey, a Marine Pests Survey, Reef Health and work being done by the CSIRO funded by the Commonwealth on the Acid Sulphate Soils in parts of the island. A healthy environment with accessibility to reliable water that is not threatening the ground water supplies is the foundation of building a sustainable local food sector – it just makes sense: environmentally, socially and economically.

Freight and developing a reliable, regular and cost effective solution for this community remains a primary focus of my office in the coming year. Similarly, to reinforce to importance of Kingston to the social, cultural and economic wellbeing of this community. There has been great progress made in the past twelve months with the support of the KAVHA Community Advisory Group and KAVHA Advisory Committees to better interpret and share the Pitcairn story that is ongoing within the World Heritage Site – to see the inclusion of the Norf’k language within the new interpretation signage next year is a welcome addition.

To all the staff at NIHRACS and the NICS; thank you all for your forbearance and patience as the transition has progressed to move form NSW to Queensland. So much good work had been done in the months leading up to the announcement that hasn’t been acknowledged, without which we would not be as prepared as we are for next year. Indeed, there is still work to do, but in Queensland we do have a willing partner for the long term and this is good for the future of high quality services in health and education on Norfolk Island.

To the volunteers in this community who quietly go about their work unheralded, asking for nothing in return – on behalf of those less fortunate whom you support and the entire community that is a better place for your selflessness; a heartfelt thank you!

The visit of the HMAS Sirius for the last time was in so many ways a highlight for many in this community. To the staff in my office who did so much of the organisation and to the executive of the RSL Sub-Branch for their support and participation in the week’s events, again thank you.

Social media has a place, but to those who use it as a vehicle to divide and without any semblance of evidence based truth or fact, to frighten vulnerable people in this community with misinformation – if you really care for this community and want the future to be better for your children and your grandchildren, please think and take a deep breath before publishing that which might divide and cause undue stress.

Can I offer my personal thanks to those staff who support me in my role as Administrator, in the main local Norfolk Islanders. I do understand it is not always easy to walk this path. To Assistant Minister Nola Marino who continues to support me in my role and to the community members who regularly remind me of what still needs to be done to make this island better and support my efforts in this regard --- your words of support, courage and kindness doesn’t go unnoticed and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

If I might indulge for a moment on a personal note – Some of you will be aware I recently purchased a property on Norfolk Island. After digging up a piece of pottery I asked the archaeologist at KAHVA to do some research for me. Unbeknown to me at the time of purchase I subsequently discovered that my block was part of a 60 acre holding owned between 1796 and 1807 by my GGGG Grandfather Thomas Hibbons (Judge Advocate in the First Colonial Settlement) and his second wife Anne Clarke, before their departure to Van Dieman’s Land. It was indeed poignant and for me rather emotional. The block was later owned by Dinah Quintal post 1856.

This community has much to look forward to in the coming months and years, well beyond improved infrastructure and services. It is an amazing little island that I have a great affection for. Again may I wish all those who call this special place home a very Happy Christmas and may 2022 be a year of renewal and peace here and across our nation.

Eric Hutchinson
Administrator of Norfolk Island.