10 February 2022

Thank you to everybody who made time to speak with me during my visit to Norfolk Island last week.

A highlight was officially opening the Norfolk Island International Airport runway re-seal and meeting with the team who managed the project, which was made possible through Australian Government funding. As an essential asset, the re-sealing of the runway will allow ongoing access to the Island for tourists and locals, which is a great outcome for the Island.

I visited many of the economic stimulus projects rolled out during COVID. The purpose of the stimulus was to keep people employed and ensure enduring facilities for the community and visitors into the future. The resulting facilities and upgrades are high quality and it was great to see them being used and enjoyed by locals and tourists alike, including the Lions Park playground and undercover BBQ facilities.

    It has been a tough time over the last couple of years of the pandemic and I thank you for your support and patience. The challenge now is to learn to live with COVID in a safe way – where borders remain open and the local economy remains strong.

    During my visit I met with a range of people including those from across the community and business. I welcomed the discussions with the Council of Elders, which will continue in the weeks and months ahead.

    I visited the Norfolk Island Health and Residential Aged Care Service (NIHRACS) and met with staff where we had valuable discussions about the transition to Queensland as long-term service delivery partner and the health priorities for NIHRACS and the Norfolk Island community.

    I was very pleased to visit Norfolk Island Central School (NICS) at this early point in the state services transition. The principal and staff have worked very hard to support integration into the Queensland education system ahead of the school year commencing. Queensland has a great deal of experience delivering high quality education to remote communities and we will see that continue here on Norfolk Island. The state services transition will be ongoing as a broader range of state-type services are delivered by Queensland in years to come.

    During my visit, I heard a lot about sustainability including the challenges and concerns about water quality and pollution in Emily Bay. I also heard strong support for more effective water management, including to deliver water for agriculture production. As a farmer, I understand the complexity and need for options to be carefully analysed to ensure any system put in place is effective, meets the needs of end users and is sustainable. I am keen for the broader Norfolk Island community to be engaged in improving water management.

    Food security and population issues were also raised and I am pleased Advisory Committees have been established as part of the local government’s community engagement processes to further examine these critical matters to Norfolk Island’s sustainability.

    It was a great pleasure to return to Kingston. In my discussions, I heard the desire for a strong, vibrant culture, including the Norfolk Island language.

    The Australian Government will continue to deliver key services and infrastructure, including exploring solutions to address freight and shipping challenges.

    I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to return to Norfolk Island, it is a wonderful place and community with a very bright future.

    The Hon Nola Marino, Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories,

    February 2022