Royal commission into matters relating to norfolk island

Present situation of population and holders of permits

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3.Present situation of population and holders of permits

At 30 June 1976, Norfolk Island’s population totaled 1885, made up as under:

Persons covered by temporary entry permits - 512

Persons covered by enter and remain permits - 66

Persons of resident status - 1014

- 1592

Tourists or visitors - 293

Total - 1885


It should be accepted by all with an interest in Norfolk Island that there are obvious limits to the capacity of the Island to absorb people. When the limits set for both residents and tourists are reached clearly this will affect such matters as the ready disposal of land, properties and businesses. It will not be easy for outsiders to enter and those likely to be affected by such circumstances should look ahead and act accord It is therefore recommended that:

  1. The figures approved by the Council for the Permanent population and tourist intake be adhered to with one proviso viz that the population limit of 2000 (set by the Council to be reached by 1980) be not regarded as a base upon which natural increases may be loaded but as the absolute upper limit to be maintained unless clear evidence justifying a change is adduced i.e, population increases other than natural increases to be adjusted to maintain this upper limit of 2000.

  2. The principle of selectivity in immigration matters be retained.
  3. Because of the need to remove the present ambiguity with respect to immigration matters steps be taken immediately to expedite the changes referred to above through the drafting and legislative stages. Once this has been accomplished the difficulties experienced by persons in the past with respect to immigration and residency matters and items related thereto such as the acquisition of businesses and real estate should be overcome In particular, the past difficulty which occurred in respect of a resident’s child who was born off the Island and who through failure to apply within a specified period for resident status could not be regarded as a reside would no longer occur.

In considering the cases of existing residents who wish to leave the Island and who experience difficulty in disposing of their property due to the fact that purchase of land in the island by an outsider is no guarantee of a right to live in the Island, two facts need to be stressed. First, such residents either knew or must be regarded as having had the opportunity to know of this difficulty at the time they purchased their Island property. Hence, they in effect gambled on the chances of purchasers from them obtaining permission to reside in the Island. Second, if the law were altered to grant priority in residency applications to purchasers of land, trafficking in land sales could become a problem in itself. While it is difficult to hold any sympathy for gamblers when they knowingly enter into a hazardous situation and fortune does not favour them, nonetheless circumstances completely out of anybody’s control can evoke genuine sympathy and a desire to lessen such hazards. There seems no justification in restricting the ability of people to dispose of their land when, for sound personal or business reasons, such disposal is warranted, provided that:

    1. It can be established that the intending purchaser is a bona fide prospective settler in the Island;

    2. No person in the Island is ready willing and able to purchase the property at the sale price;

    3. The intending vendor renounces his residency after the sale; and

    4. The number of people entering the Island as a result of the sale will not exceed the number leaving.

Provisions of this kind are necessary in order to protect the rights of people who may be waiting to become residents of the Island and whose applications would otherwise be deferred.

  1. The Commission recommends accordingly.

  2. The Commission recommends that the notion that formal priority should be granted to Pitcairn descendants and their spouses, when considering residency applications, be abandoned as being incompatible with the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

The Commission recognises the importance to Norfolk of the retention of Pitcairn descendants’ traditional ways of life and in no sense either underestimates this factor or disparages it. However, in addition to recognising it, and assigning importance to it, one must, at the same time, be realistic and keep it in perspective.

The Pitcairn influence is already strong in Norfolk Island and recommendations in this Report, particularly those relating to taxation and immigration, if adopted, are likely to keep that influence at a strong level. The need to increase the rights to residency of Pitcairn descendants will tend to wither as there will not be the same desire by non—Islanders to become Islanders.

Further, it should be realised that most Pitcairn descendants have that status through one parent only and the present trend will tend to emphasise this, so that in another two or three generations the Pitcairn strain will be diluted even further. Island children will become even less oriented toward a Pitcairner outlook. Besides, the intended amendments to the Ordinance providing for mandatory residence to be granted children of existing residents will itself be quite sufficient protection for Pitcairn descendants without additional weighting.

It should be noted again that the readiness with which some Pitcairn descendants sold their land (and alleged birthright) cannot but cause one to doubt the sincerity of their protestations that Norfolk Island should be reserved for the Pitcairn descendants because of their claim that it had been given to their ancestors by Queen Victoria. This Report has earlier stated the reasons why no such reservation ever existed in any constitutional and legal sense and hence it is highly desirable that nothing be done via immigration or any other policy which may tend to foster and perpetuate that baseless belief. There is already a deplorable level of divisiveness in the Island and unwarranted favours to the Pitcairn element will only exacerbate it.

Citizens living in Norfolk Island whoever they may be should be encouraged to take a mature and modern outlook and to develop a sense of being primarily Norfolk Islanders rather than clinging to the notion of being members of a special group within the Island. The latter concept will never bring satisfactory development and happiness to the Island. It is stressed again that no one group of people possesses either all the virtues or all the vices and the Island is overdue for some genuine tolerance to be practiced consciously by all groups. A start should be made in trying to think of themselves as Norfolkians - one and all - and to keep in proper perspective the sheer accident of one’s ancestry.

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