Royal commission into matters relating to norfolk island



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1.Immigration procedures


All persons on entry into Norfolk Island, whether by sea or air, complete an ‘Entry form’ which provides details for immi­gration and other purposes. On departing from Norfolk Island completion of a ‘Departure form’ is necessary. These records form the basis for immigration administration. The Ordinance provides for action against those who provide misleading or untrue information.

‘Entry forms’ are collected at point of entry, checked against the manifest, then delivered to the Immigration Section of the Administration at Kingston.

In the Immigration Section the forms are given a preliminary examination to identify any person who on an earlier entry to the Island may have caused difficulties. It is then numbered, registered and filed. Persons indicating a stay in excess of thirty days — unless they be residents or holders of current permits — are contacted by mail, drawing their attention to the provisions of the Ordinance in respect of a stay over thirty days. In response to this letter they call at the Administration Office, complete the appropriate application form, submit the requisite medical certificate and provide whatever other relevant information is considered necessary.

If successful in gaining a permit, their conditions of stay are determined and a permit prepared and issued. Successful applicants, on collecting their permit, sign for it and acknowledge the conditions endorsed thereon. If unsuccessful, a time is set for their departure, Persons who come to the Island to purchase a home, land or business and wish to enter the Island to pursue their business, or to retire, are in most cases direct to the Immigration Section by the Island’s land agents or the prospective vendors It is to be noted that persons who signify on entry that they do not intend to stay for thirty days are not sent any official letter indicating restricted entry.

The purchase of land or property in Norfolk Island does not confer any right of entry on an applicant for entry, and notices to this effect are periodically published in the Norfolk Island Government Gazette.

All applicants for permits, whether permanent or temporary, are personally interviewed in the first instance, Applicants for renewal of permits are not necessarily interviewed, As a matter of immigration administration all applications for entry are initially lodged and processed by the Administrative Officer as an authorised officer under the Ordinance Those applications for a temporary stay, provided they are within the current policies, are dealt with and finalised at that level. They constitute the major portion of applications.

Applications for temporary permits of a contentious nature or those that may be border-­line cases and all cases for long-term entry are referred to the Administrator Those matters on which the Administrator requires further advice he refers to the Immigration Review Board. All applications for long-­term entry are referred to that Board.

The Board is a non-statutory body established in December 1972 by the then Administrator to advise him on immigration matters where there was a need for him to exercise discretionary authority lie saw the value of having the opinion of well-­informed people who could meet and offer advice when required. The Board has no executive authority but merely offers advice. To date, the Administrator has invariably followed the advice tendered by the Board.

Initially the Board was termed the Immigration Committee. Its first meeting was held on 13 December 1972 and its members consisted of:


  1. The Administrator;

  2. The President of Committees of the Norfolk Island Council;

  3. Those Councillors who were members of the Immigration Committee of the Norfolk Island Council; and

  4. The Administrative Officer of the Norfolk Island Administration.

The name, but not the composition, of this body was changed in March 1973 to the Immigration Review Board, and the Norfolk Island Council was advised accordingly at its meeting on 13 March 1973.

2.Amendments and proposed amendments to legislation and policy

Discussion by the Norfolk Island Council on amendments to the Immigration Ordinance of 1968, and its accompanying policy, commenced in May 1970, principally in the area of granting certificates of residential status (qualifying time, financial criteria, annual quota) and ‘work permits’. Various resolutions were made by Council on these matters and on 15 September 1970 a comprehensive report was furnished to the administering Department. Further to this, discussions on these matters between the Administrator and the Department were held in October 1970 and February 1971. Council discussion and exchange of views with the Department continued through 1971 without resulting in any amending legislation.

In April 1972 the Minister endorsed two of the Norfolk Island Council resolutions one recommending an annual quota of fifteen in respect of certificates of residential status and the other the formation of an Immigration Committee of the Council under s 57 of the Norfolk Island Council Ordinance Both recommendations were implemented.

Immigration matters were again raised by the Norfolk Island Council in June 1972 but without following action Nothing further occurred until July 1973 when a resolution was passed with a view to obviating the need for Island—born persons to be declared residents by the Administrator before actually becoming legal residents within the meaning of the Immigration Ordinance. The text of this resolution was forwarded to the Department approved by the Minister and on 1 March 1974 was sent to the Legislative Drafting Division of the Attorney-General’s Department. A draft ordinance was prepared and sent to the Department of the Capital Territory on 13 May 1974. At that point of time it was decided not to proceed with this ordinance in isolation but to incorporate its provisions in a later ordinance to be introduced after a complete review of the machinery governing permits and the granting of resident status. Following that review instructions to prepare a new ordinance were as mentioned later in this chapter forwarded to the Legislative Drafting Division of the Attorney— General’s Department on 13 August 1975.

In September 1973, the administering Department initiated the thought of engaging a consultant to advise on the future population capacity of Norfolk Island, It was felt that such a study would provide a base on which to plan those matters of immigration policy which had been raised as early as May 1970 and had not been resolved. A firm proposal for an immigration and population study, with suggested terms of reference, was communi­cated by the Department to the Administrator on 3 October 1973 and accepted by resolution of the Norfolk Island Council on 20 November 1973. xx

The study was undertaken by Professor Gilbert J Butland pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of New England Armidale N.S.W., who visited the Island from 19 January to 4 February 1974. Professor Butland’s Report entitled ‘A Long Term Population Study of Norfolk Island’ was submitted to the administering Department in March 1974. The Report, as it directly affects immigration, recommended:


  1. Policies should be devised to limit residential population to a maximum of 2000 by 1983.

  2. Once the maximum tourist intake of 20 000 is reached in 1983 it would be preferable to contain residential population growth to an annual rate of 2%. Natural increase on present indication will stabilise at about 0.75% per annum allowing continued migration post 1983 at the rate of 1.25%, or twenty-five to thirty persons each year.

Professor Butland’s principles concerning immigration control were accepted, save that 1980 was substituted for 1983, together with other development planning measures at a meeting of Council on 17 October 1974. The relevant Minute of the Council reads:

Council also recommends a resident population of 2000 by the year 1980 and a tourist figure of 20 000 per annum or 1200 beds by the year 1980.

Legislation and policy to effect these recommendations are awaited.

On 30 January 1974, emergency legislation was passed with the endorsement of the Administrator and the approval of the Council to delete s,17(l)(b)(v) of the Ordinance which states…

17 - (1) where application is made to the Administrator under the last preceding section:

(b) By a person who is ordinarily resident in Norfolk Island at the time when he makes the application and intends, if declared to be a resident, to continue to reside ordinarily in Norfolk Island, being a person -…

v. Who has been informed by the Administrator that he is entitled to remain in Norfolk Island indefinitely, the Administrator shall declare the person to be a resident.

Three applicants attempted to achieve residential status by virtue of this section and, therefore, secure a mandatory declaration of residential status in lieu of making application pursuant to s 17(2) where specified criteria are applied and the Administrator’s discretion could be exercised. Their application were refused by the Administrator, and on appeal by one to the Minister, a Commissioner was appointed (pursuant to s.l8) to investigate the appeal. His recommendation resulted in the Minis. Upholding the Administrator’s decision to refuse the grant of residential status.

At the Norfolk Island Council meeting of 5 February 1974, the Administrator raised the issue of a backlog of applicants for residential status caused by the current quota of fifteen per annum in respect of the issue of the certificate of declaration of residential status. The waiting list at that time stood at twenty—one applications with a possibility of an additional seventy-five prospective applicants over the following three and a half years. This meant a perpetual wait for each applicant of three years over and above the statutory five years’ qualifying period. The Administrator under the Minister’s direction of 3 May 1974, put aside the quota system in respect of the processing of applicants for residential status, and exercised his authority in accord with the Ordinance and remaining ministerial approval criteria. The applications of those on the waiting list were finalised and since then current applications are being processed as soon as received. The Minister also confirmed that the matter of immigration legislation and policy was under review, and on 3 May 1974 instructed that no further enter and remain permits be issued until the review had been concluded. This embargo on the issue of enter and remain permits is still current.

Upon review of the Ordinance in 1974 the Council (at an informal meeting) and the Minister approved amendments to provide for:


        1. Conditional entry permits to be issued for periods of up to one year at a time

        2. Applications for resident status by persons who have held conditional entry permits for five years;

        3. Criteria for regulating the granting of conditional entry permits and resident status;

        4. A limit to the maximum permanent population of the Island along the lines suggested by Professor Butland;

        5. A committee to consider and advise on applications for entry and resident status;

        6. Persons having temporary entry permits to have them converted into conditional entry permits for the unexpired period of the temporary entry permit;

        7. Children to have an automatic right to be declared a resident only if born to persons holding resident status; and

        8. Saving and transitional clauses to protect those persons having some claim or legitimate expectation under the present scheme.

Instructions regarding the drafting of these amendments were sent to the Attorney General’s Department on 13 August 1975.



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