Majority of Norfolk's Regional Council backs autonomy
Canberra's attempt to rein in Norfolk Island could be undermined by the regional council it has set up.
Canberra's attempt to rein in Norfolk Island could be undermined by the regional council it has just set up.
Canberra removed Norfolk's autonomy a year ago and from the beginning of July it is to become a regional council under New South Wales.
The five-member Norfolk Island Regional Council was voted for last weekend and one of the successful candidates is the most recent former chief minister Lisle Snell.
Three of the five, including Mr Snell, are backers of the island's push to win back some autonomy.
He told Don Wiseman he hopes the Council will be able to work together to give the people a voice in their own governance.
LISLE SNELL: Now this is going to be difficult from a regional council point of view. The Norfolk Island regional council would be quite separate from the regional councils of New South Wales even though some New South Wales legislation may apply to us from time to time and NSW just recently passed some legislation which has an effect on Norfolk Island, as of the first of July.
DONALD WISEMAN: Amongst that is they haven't given Norfolk Islanders a vote in the state legislature. What do people make of that?
LS: That is one of the issues that confronts people on Norfolk Island as being very unfair. That some state legislation from NSW may apply to Norfolk Island or will apply to Norfolk Island, Commonwealth laws will apply to Norfolk Islands as well, and some of the retained Norfolk Island laws will also still apply here. So it really is a mismatch, of a lot of different legislation. Norfolk Islanders will not have a vote in the NSW constitutional arrangement. They will have a vote in the electorate of Canberra, for which very few of us have a desire to be there and we will be represented, according to the Commonwealth, in the electorate of Canberra, under the minister responsible for territories, at that time.
DW: This is just one of a series of anomalies in this whole process isn't it? Because despite there now being supposedly an elected body running the island, from a local body point of view you are still going to have someone appointed by Canberra to sit over the top of you.
LS: That is correct. The administrator is still minister's delegate to Norfolk Island and he has been assigned the responsibilities for the introduction of the regional council, plus many other legislations pertaining to Norfolk Island and its new reform process arrangement. So really the regional council will only have very limited legislative powers.
DW: Dog control and such.
LS: Yes looking after certain aspects of the roads, the raising of some revenue through some imposed rates system, which the regional council will have very little say on, what rates will apply and so on. And then, of course, roads and rubbish and dogs and cats and that sort of thing. There is no doubt that for a past legislative assembly member, as chief minister of the previous Norfolk Island government, it is going to be very very difficult to come down to this level of administrative arrangement.
DW: It would be fair to say that the election of this regional council last weekend is not going to go anyway towards solving the tensions on the island?
LS: Definitely not, definitely not. It will help to provide the people with more information on what is transpiring in the administrative functions that pertain to Norfolk Island but as far as a legislative control it is not going to appease many people on the island at all. It is a difficult situation we find ourselves in and I think the Commonwealth have realised what was in place prior to them abolishing the Norfolk Island government in 2015. A lot of it wasn't as bad as what they had thought. It wasn't broken and they are trying to fix something that wasn't broken and they are running into all types of difficulties. So I understand.
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