Norfolk Island pine

Norfolk Island pine

Norfolk Island pine: see monkey-puzzle tree.

Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria excelsa).

Evergreen timber and ornamental conifer (Araucaria excelsa, or A. heterophylla) of the family Araucariaceae, native to Norfolk Island in the South Pacific Ocean. In nature this pine grows to a height of 200 ft (60 m), with a trunk sometimes reaching 10 ft (3 m) in diameter. The wood of large trees is used in construction, furniture, and shipbuilding. The sapling stage is grown worldwide as a houseplant and as an outdoor ornamental in regions with a Mediterranean climate. The monkey puzzle tree is a relative.

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Norfolk Island (Norfuk: Norfuk Ailen) is a small inhabited island in the Pacific Ocean located between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia. It and two neighbouring islands form one of Australia's external territories.

The Norfolk Island pine, a symbol of the island pictured in its flag, is an evergreen tree native to the island and is quite popular in Australia, where two related species also grow.

Geography

Norfolk Island is located in the South Pacific Ocean, east of the Australian mainland. Norfolk Island is the main island of the island group the territory encompasses and is located at . It has an area of 34.6 km² (13.3 mi²), with no large-scale internal bodies of water but 32 km of coastline. The island's highest point is Mt Bates (319 m above sea level), located in the northwest quadrant of the island. The majority of the terrain is suitable for farming and other agricultural uses. Phillip Island, the second largest island of the territory, is located at , seven kilometres south of the main island.

The coastline of Norfolk Island consists, to varying degrees, of cliff faces. A downward slope exists towards Sydney Bay and Emily Bay, the site of the original colonial settlement of Kingston. There are no safe harbour facilities on Norfolk Island, with loading jetties existing at Kingston and Cascade Bay. All goods not domestically produced are brought in by ship, usually to Cascade Bay. Emily Bay, protected from the Pacific Ocean by a small coral reef, is the only safe area for recreational swimming, although surfing waves can sometimes be found in Ball Bay.

The climate is subtropical and mild, with little seasonal differentiation. The island is the eroded remnant of a basaltic volcano active around 2.3 to 3 million years ago, with inland areas now consisting mainly of rolling plains. It forms the highest point on the Norfolk Ridge, part of the submerged continent Zealandia.

The area surrounding Mt Bates is preserved as the Norfolk Island National Park. The park, covering around 10% of the land of the island, contains remnants of the forests which originally covered the island, including stands of subtropical rainforest.

The park also includes the two smaller islands to the south of Norfolk Island, Nepean Island and Phillip Island. The vegetation of Phillip Island was devastated due to the introduction during the penal era of pest animals such as pigs and rabbits, giving it a red-brown colour as viewed from Norfolk; however, pest control and remediation work by park staff has recently brought some improvement to the Phillip Island environment.

The major settlement on the Island is Burnt Pine, located predominantly along Taylor's Road, where the shopping centre, post office, liquor store, telephone exchange and community hall are located. Settlement also exists over much of the island, consisting largely of widely-separated homesteads.

Government House, the official residence of the Administrator, is located on Quality Row in what was the penal settlement of Kingston. Other government buildings, including the court, Legislative Assembly and Administration, are also located there. Kingston's role is largely a ceremonial one, however, with most of the economic impetus coming from Burnt Pine.

Environment

Norfolk Island has 174 native plants; 51 of them are endemic. At least 18 of the endemic species are rare or threatened. The Norfolk Island Palm (Rhopalostylis baueri) and the Smooth Tree-fern (Cyathea brownii), the tallest tree-fern in the world, are common in the Norfolk Island National Park but rare elsewhere on the island. 15 bird species were originally present; 6 are extinct and three species and two subspecies are highly endangered. Norfolk island has only one native mammal, Gould's wattled bat (Chalinolobus gouldii), which is very rare or may be extinct. Before European colonization, most of Norfolk Island was covered with subtropical rain forest, the canopy of which was made of Araucaria heterophylla (Norfolk Island Pine) in exposed areas, and the palm Rhopalostylis baueri and tree ferns Cyathea brownii and C. australia in moister protected areas. The understory was thick with lianas and ferns covered the forest floor. Only one small tract (5km²) of rainforest remains, which was declared as the Norfolk Island National Park in 1986. This forest has been infested with several introduced plants. The cliffs and steep slopes of Mt. Pitt supported a community of shrubs, herbaceous plants, and climbers. A few tracts of clifftop and seashore vegetation have been preserved. The rest of the island has been cleared for pasture and housing. Grazing and introduced weeds currently threaten the native flora, displacing it in some areas. In fact, there are more weed species than native species on Norfolk Island.

History

Early history

Norfolk Island was first settled by East Polynesian seafarers either from the Kermadec Islands north of New Zealand or from the North Island of New Zealand. They arrived in the fourteenth or fifteenth century, and survived for several generations before disappearing. Their main village site has been excavated at Emily Bay, and they also left behind stone tools, the Polynesian Rat, and banana trees as evidence of their sojourn. The final fate of these early settlers remains a mystery.

The first European known to have sighted the island was Captain James Cook, in 1774, on his second voyage to the South Pacific on HMS Resolution. He named it after the Duchess of Norfolk, wife of Edward Howard, 9th Duke of Norfolk (1685-1777). The Duchess was dead at the time of the island's sighting by Cook, but Cook had set out from England in 1772 and could not have known of her May 1773 death.

Cook went ashore on Tuesday 11 October 1774, and is said to have been impressed with the tall straight trees and New Zealand flax plants, which, like the Northern Hemisphere flax plants after which they are named, produce fibres of economic importance. He took samples back to the United Kingdom and reported on their potential uses for the Royal Navy.

Andrew Kippis as the biographer of this voyage puts it as follows:

At the time, the United Kingdom was heavily dependent on flax (Linum usitatissimum) (for sails) and hemp (Cannabis sp.) (for ropes) from the shores of the Baltic Sea ports. Any threat to their supply endangered the United Kingdom's sea power. The UK also relied on timbers from New England for mainmasts, and these were not supplied after the American War of Independence. The alternative source of Norfolk Island for these, (or in the case of flax and hemp, similar) supplies is argued by some historians, notably Geoffrey Blainey in The Tyranny of Distance, as being a major reason for the founding of the convict settlement of New South Wales by the First Fleet in 1788.

James Cook said that, “except for New Zealand, in no other island in the South Sea was wood and mast-timber so ready to hand”.

John Call, member of Parliament and the Royal Society, and former chief engineer of the East India Company, stated the advantages of Norfolk Island in a proposal for colonization he put to the Home Office in August 1784: “This Island has an Advantage not common to New Caledonia, New Holland and New Zealand by not being inhabited, so that no Injury can be done by possessing it to the rest of Mankind…there seems to be nothing wanting but Inhabitants and Cultivation to make it a delicious Residence. The Climate, Soil, and Sea provide everything that can be expected from them. The Timber, Shrubs, Vegetables and Fish already found there need no Embellishment to pronounce them excellent samples; but the most invaluable of all is the Flax-plant, which grows more luxuriant than in New Zealand.”

George Forster, who had been on Cook’s second voyage to the Pacific and had been with him when he landed on Norfolk Island, was at the time professor of natural history at the University of Vilna (or Vilnius) in Polish Lithuania: Forster discussed the proposed Botany Bay colony in an article written in November 1786, “Neuholland, und die brittische Colonie in Botany Bay”. Though unaware of the British intention to settle Norfolk Island, which was not announced until 5 December 1786, Forster referred to “the nearness of New Zealand; the excellent flax plant (Phormium) that grows so abundantly there; its incomparable shipbuilding timber”, as among the advantages of the new colony.

The proposal written by James Matra under the supervision of Sir Joseph Banks for establishing a settlement in New South Wales, stated that Botany Bay was: “no further than a fortnight from New Zealand, which is covered with timber even to the water’s edge. The trees are so big and tall that a single tree is enough to make a mast of a first rate man of war. New Zealand produces in addition flax, which is an object equally of utility and curiosity. Any quantity of it might be raised in the colony, as this plant grows naturally in New Zealand. It can be made to serve the various purposes of cotton, hemp and linen, and is easier manufactured than any of them. In naval affairs, it could not fail of being of the utmost consequence; a cable of ten inches (250 mm) being supposed to be of equal strength and durability to one of European hemp of eighteen inches.

In 1786 the British Government included Norfolk Island as an auxiliary settlement, as proposed by John Call, in its plan for colonization of New South Wales. The flax and ship timber of New Zealand were attractive, but these prospective advantages were balanced by the obvious impossibility of forming a settlement there in the face of undoubted opposition from the native Maori. There was no native population to oppose a settlement on Norfolk Island, which also possessed those desirable natural resources, but the island was too small of itself to sustain a colony. Hence the ultimate decision for a dual colonization along the lines proposed by Call.

The decision to settle Norfolk Island was taken under the impetus of the shock Britain had just received from the Empress Catherine of Russia. Practically all the hemp and flax required by the Royal Navy for cordage and sailcloth was imported from the Russian dominions through the ports of St. Petersburg (Kronstadt) and Riga. Comptroller of the Navy Sir Charles Middleton explained to Prime Minister Pitt in a letter of 5 September 1786: “It is for Hemp only we are dependent on Russia. Masts can be procured from Nova Scotia, and Iron in plenty from the Ores of this Country; but as it is impracticable to carry on a Naval War without Hemp, it is materially necessary to promote the growth of it in this Country and Ireland”. In the summer of 1786 the Empress Catherine, in the context of tense negotiations on a renewed treaty of commerce, had emphasized her control over this vital commodity by asking the merchants who supplied it to restrict sales to English buyers: “the Empress has contrary to Custom speculated on this Commodity”, complained the author of a subsequent memorandum to the Home Secretary. “It is unnecessary”, said the memorandum, “to remark the Consequences which might result from a prohibition of supply from that Quarter altogether”. This implicit threat to the viability of the Royal Navy became apparent in mid-September (a month after the decision had been taken to settle Botany Bay) and caused the Pitt Administration to begin an urgent search for new sources of supply, including from Norfolk Island, which was then added to the plan to colonize New South Wales.

The need for an alternative source of supply of naval stores to Russia is indicated by the information from the British Ambassador in Copenhagen, Hugh Elliott, who wrote to Foreign Secretary, Lord Carmarthen on 12 August 1788: “There is no Topick so common in the Mouths of the Russian Ministers, as to insist on the Facility with which the Empress, when Mistress of the Baltic, either by Conquest, Influence, or Alliance with the other two Northern Powers, could keep England in a State of Dependence for its Baltic Commerce and Naval Stores”.

On 6 December 1786, an order-in-council was issued designating "the Eastern Coast of New South Wales, or some one or other of the Islands adjacent" as the destination for transported convicts, as required by the Transportation Act of 1784 (24 Geo.III, c.56) that authorized the sending of convicted felons to any place appointed by the King in Council. Norfolk Island was thereby brought officially within the bounds of the projected colony.

An article in The Universal Daily Register (the forerunner of The Times) of 23 December 1786 revealed the plan for a dual colonization of Norfolk Island and Botany Bay: “The ships for Botany Bay are not to leave all the convicts there; some of them are to be taken to Norfolk Island, which is about eight hundred miles East of Botany Bay, and about four hundred miles short of New Zealand”.

The advantage of Britain's new colony providing an alternative source to Russia for naval supplies of flax and hemp was referred to in an article in Lloyd’s Evening Post of 5 October 1787 which urged: “It is undoubtedly the interest of Great-Britain to remain neutral in the present contest between the Russians and the Turks” and observed, “Should England cease to render her services to the Empress of Russia, in a war against the Turks, there can be little of nothing to fear from her ill-will. England will speedily be enabled to draw from her colony of New South Wales, the staple of Russia, hemp and flax.”

First penal settlement

Before the First Fleet sailed to found a convict settlement in New South Wales, Governor Arthur Phillip's final instructions, received less than three weeks before sailing, included the requirement to colonize Norfolk Island to prevent it falling into the hands of France, whose naval leaders were also showing interest in the Pacific.

Phillip’s instructions given him in April 1787 included an injunction to send a party to secure Norfolk Island “as soon as Circumstances may admit of it…. to prevent its being occupied by the Subjects of any other European Power”. This could only have been a reference to the expedition then in the Pacific commanded by Jean-François de Galaup, comte de La Pérouse. The Daily Universal Register of 11 November 1786 had stated: "the Botany Bay scheme is laid aside, as there is a strong presumption that a squadron from Brest are now, or soon will be, in possession of the very spot we meant to occupy in New Holland". This may have been a reference to a report from the British Ambassador in Paris, who had believed that when Lapérouse’s expedition set out from Brest in August 1785 it had as one of its objectives the establishment of a settlement in New Zealand to forestall the British.

Lapérouse did attempt to visit Norfolk Island, but only to investigate, not to take possession. He had instructions to investigate any colonies the English may have established and learned of the intention to settle Botany Bay and Norfolk Island from despatches sent to him from Paris through St. Petersburg and by land across Siberia to Petropavlovsk in Kamchatka, where he received them on 26 September 1787, just four days before his departure from that port. His ships, the Boussole and Astrolabe, anchored off the northern side of the island on 13 January 1788, but at the time high seas were running that made it too dangerous for the two ships’ boats that were put out to attempt a landing: “It was obvious that I would have had to wait maybe for a very long time for a moment suitable for a landing and a visit to this island was not worth this sacrifice”, he recorded in his journal. Having noted that the island was still uninhabited, he was presumably the less inclined to risk a landing when there was no English settlement there to report on.

When the First Fleet arrived at Port Jackson in January 1788, Phillip ordered Lieutenant Philip Gidley King to lead a party of fifteen convicts and seven free men to take control of the island and prepare for its commercial development. They arrived on 6 March 1788.

A “Letter from an Officer of Marines at New South Wales, 16 November 1788”, published in the London newspaper, The World, 15 May 1789, reported the glowing description of the island and its prospects by Philip Gidley King, but also drew attention to the fatal defect of the lack of a safe port: “The said Island lies near Port Jackson, and is nearly as large as the Isle of Wight. Lieutenant King, who was sent with a detachment of marines and some convicts, to settle there, gives the most flattering portrayal of it. The island is fully wooded. Its timber is in the opinion of everyone the most beautiful and finest in the world...they are most suitable for masts, yards, spars and such. The New Zealand flax-plant grows there in abundance. European grains and seeds also thrive wonderfully well on Norfolk Island. It only lacks a good port and suitable landing places, without which the island is of no use, but with them it would be of the greatest importance for Great Britain. How far these deficiencies can be improved by art and the hand of man, time must decide.”

It was soon found that the flax was difficult to prepare for manufacturing and no one had the necessary skills. An attempt was made to bring two Māori men to teach the skills of dressing and weaving flax, but this failed when it was discovered that weaving was considered women's work and the two men had little knowledge of it. The pine timber was found to be not resilient enough for masts and this industry was also abandoned.

More convicts were sent, and the island was seen as a farm, supplying Sydney with grain and vegetables during its early years of near-starvation. However, crops often failed due to the salty wind, rats, and caterpillars. The lack of a natural safe harbour hindered communication and the transport of supplies and produce.

Manning Clark observed that "at first the convicts behaved well, but as more arrived from Sydney Cove, they renewed their wicked practices". These included an attempted overthrow of King in January 1789 by convicts described by Margaret Hazzard as "incorrigible rogues who took his 'goodwill' for weakness". While some convicts responded well to the opportunities offered to become respectable, most remained "idle and miserable wretches" according to Clark, despite the climate and their isolation from previous haunts of crime.

The impending starvation at Sydney led to a great transplantation of convicts and marines to Norfolk Island in March 1790 on HMS Sirius. This attempt to relieve the pressure on Sydney turned to disaster when Sirius was wrecked and, although there was no loss of life, some stores were destroyed, and the ship's crew was marooned for ten months. This news was met in Sydney with "unspeakable consternation". Norfolk Island was now further cut off from Sydney which, with the arrival of the Second Fleet with its cargo of sick and abused convicts, had more pressing problems with which to contend.

In spite of this the settlement grew slowly as more convicts were sent from Sydney. Many convicts chose to remain as settlers on the expiry of their sentence, and the population grew to over 1000 by 1792.

Lieutenant governors of the first settlement:

  • 6 March 1788–24 March 1790: Lieutenant Philip Gidley King (1758–1808)
  • 24 March 1790–Nov 1791: Major Robert Ross (c.1740–1794)
  • 4 November 1791–Oct 1796: Lieutenant Philip Gidley King
  • October 1796–Nov 1799: Captain John Townson (1760–1835)
  • November 1799–Jul 1800: Captain Thomas Rowley (c.1748–1806)
  • 26 June 1800–9 September 1804: Major Joseph Foveaux (1765–1846)
  • 9 September 1804–January 1810: Lieutenant John Piper (1773–1851)
  • January 1810–15 February 1813: Lieutenant Thomas Crane (caretaker)
  • 15 February 1813–15 February 1814: Superintendent William Hutchinson

Norfolk Island was governed by a succession of short-term commandants for the next eleven years, starting with King's replacement, Robert Ross 1789-1790. When Joseph Foveaux arrived as Lieutenant Governor in 1800, he found the settlement quite run down, little maintenance having been carried out in the previous four years, and he set about building it up, particularly through public works and attempts to improve education.

As early as 1794 King suggested its closure as a penal settlement as it was too remote and difficult for shipping, and too costly to maintain. By 1803, the Secretary of State, Lord Hobart, called for the removal of part of the Norfolk Island military establishment, settlers and convicts to Van Diemen's Land, due to its great expense and the difficulties of communication between Norfolk Island and Sydney. This was achieved more slowly than anticipated, due to reluctance of settlers to uproot themselves from the land they had struggled to tame, and compensation claims for loss of stock. It was also delayed by King's insistence on its value for providing refreshment to the whalers. The first group of 159 left in February 1805 and comprised mainly convicts and their families and military personnel, only four settlers departing. Between November 1807 and September 1808, five groups of 554 people departed. Only about 200 remained, forming a small settlement until the remnants were removed in 1813. A small party remained to slaughter stock and destroy all buildings so that there would be no inducement for anyone, especially from another European power, to visit that place.

From 15 February 1814 to 6 June 1825 the island lay abandoned.

Second penal settlement

Commandants of the second settlement:

In 1824 the British government instructed the Governor of New South Wales Thomas Brisbane to occupy Norfolk Island as a place to send “the worst description of convicts”. Its remoteness, seen previously as a disadvantage, was now viewed as an asset for the detention of the “twice-convicted” men, who had committed further crimes since arriving in New South Wales. Brisbane assured his masters that “the felon who is sent there is forever excluded from all hope of return” He saw Norfolk Island as “the nec plus ultra of Convict degradation”.

His successor, Governor Ralph Darling, was even more severe than Brisbane, wishing that “every man should be worked in irons that the example may deter others from the commission of crime” and “to hold out [Norfolk Island] as a place of the extremest punishment short of death”. Governor George Arthur, in Van Diemen's Land, likewise believed that “when prisoners are sent to Norfolk Island, they should on no account be permitted to return. Transportation thither should be considered as the ultimate limit and a punishment short only of death”. Reformation of the convicts was not seen as an objective of the Norfolk Island penal settlement.

The evidence that has passed down through the years points to the creation of a "Hell in Paradise". A widespread and popular notion of the harshness of penal settlements, including Norfolk Island, has come from the novel For the Term of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke, which appears to be based on the writings and recollections of witnesses and from the fictional writings of Price Warung.

Following a convict mutiny in 1834, Father William Ullathorne, Vicar general of Sydney, visited Norfolk Island to comfort the mutineers due for execution. He found it “the most heartrending scene that I ever witnessed”. Having the duty of informing the prisoners as to who was reprieved and who was to die, he was shocked to record as “a literal fact that each man who heard his reprieve wept bitterly, and that each man who heard of his condemnation to death went down on his knees with dry eyes, and thanked God.”

The 1846 report of magistrate Robert Pringle Stuart exposed the scarcity and poor quality of food, inadequacy of housing, horrors of torture and incessant flogging, insubordination of convicts, and corruption of overseers.

Bishop Robert Willson visited Norfolk Island from Van Diemen's Land on three occasions. Following his first visit in 1846 he reported to the House of Lords who, for the first time, came to realise the enormity of atrocities perpetrated under the British flag and attempted to remedy the evils. Willson returned in 1849 and found that many of the reforms had been implemented. However, rumours of resumed atrocities brought him back in 1852, and this visit resulted in a damning report, listing atrocities and blaming the system, which invested one man at this remote place with absolute power over so many people.

Only a handful of convicts left any written record and their descriptions (as quoted by Hazzard and Hughes) of living and working conditions, food and housing, and, in particular, the punishments given for seemingly trivial offences, are unremittingly horrifying, describing a settlement devoid of all human decency, under the iron rule of the tyrannical autocratic commandants.

The actions of some of the commandants, such as Morisset and particularly Price appear to be excessively harsh. All but one were military officers, brought up in a system where discipline was inhumanely severe throughout the period of transportation. In addition, the commandants relied on a large number of military guards, civil overseers, ex-convict constables, and convict informers to provide them with intelligence and carry out their orders.

Of the Commandants, only Alexander Maconochie appeared to reach the conclusion that brutality would breed defiance, as demonstrated by the mutinies of 1826, 1834 and 1846, and he attempted to apply his theories of penal reform, providing incentives as well as punishment. His methods were criticised as being too lenient and he was replaced, a move that returned the settlement to its harsh rule.

The second penal settlement began to be wound down by the British Government after 1847 and the last convicts were removed to Tasmania in May 1855. It was abandoned because transportation to Van Diemen's Land had ceased in 1853 and was replaced by penal servitude in the United Kingdom.

Settlement by Pitcairn Islanders

On 8 June 1856, the next settlement began on Norfolk Island. These were the descendants of Tahitians and the Bounty mutineers, resettled from the Pitcairn Islands, which had become too small for their growing population. The British government had permitted the transfer of the Pitcairners to Norfolk, which was thus established as a colony separate from New South Wales but under the administration of that colony's governor. They left Pitcairn Islands on the 3 May 1856 and arrived with 194 persons on 8 June.

The Pitcairners occupied many of the buildings remaining from the penal settlements, and gradually established their traditional farming and whaling industries on the island. Although some families decided to return to Pitcairn in 1858 and 1863, the island's population continued to slowly grow as the island accepted settlers, often arriving with whaling fleets.

In 1867, the headquarters of the Melanesian Mission of the Church of England were established on the island, and in 1882 the church of St. Barnabas was erected to the memory of the Mission's head Bishop John Coleridge Patteson, with windows designed by Edward Burne-Jones and executed by William Morris. In 1920 the Mission was relocated from the island to the Solomon Islands to be closer to its target population.

Twentieth century

After the creation of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901, Norfolk Island was placed under the authority of the new Commonwealth government to be administered as an external territory.

During World War II, the island became a key airbase and refuelling depot between Australia and New Zealand, and New Zealand and the Solomon Islands. Since Norfolk Island fell within New Zealand's area of responsibility it was garrisoned by a New Zealand Army unit known as N Force at a large Army camp which had the capacity to house a 1,500 strong force. N Force relieved a company of the Second Australian Imperial Force. The island proved too remote to come under attack during the war and N Force left the island in February 1944.

In 1979, Norfolk was granted limited self-government by Australia, under which the island elects a government that runs most of the island's affairs. As such, residents of Norfolk Island are not represented in the Commonwealth Parliament of Australia, making them the only group of residents of an Australian state or territory not represented there.

In 2006, a formal review process took place, in which the Australian Government considered revising this model of government. The review was completed on 20 December 2006, when it was decided that there would be no changes in the governance of Norfolk Island.

Politics

Norfolk Island is the only non-mainland Australian territory to have achieved self-governance. The Norfolk Island Act, passed by the Parliament of Australia in 1979, is the Act under which the island is governed. The Australian Government maintains authority on the island through an Administrator (currently Owen Walsh as Acting Administrator), who is appointed by the Governor-General of Australia. A Legislative Assembly is elected by popular vote for a term of not more than three years, although legislation passed by the Australian Parliament can extend its laws to the territory at will, including the power to override any laws made by the Norfolk Island Legislative Assembly.

The Assembly consists of nine seats, with electors casting nine equal votes, of which no more than two can be given to any individual candidate. It is a method of voting called a "weighted first past the post system". Four of the members of the Assembly form the Executive Council, which devises policy and acts as an advisory body to the Administrator. The current Chief Minister of Norfolk Island is Andre Nobbs. All seats are held by independent candidates. Norfolk Island has yet to embrace party politics. In 2007 a branch of the Australian Labor Party was formed on Norfolk Island, with the aim of reforming the system of government.

The island's official capital is Kingston; it is, however, more a centre of government than a sizeable settlement.

The most important local holiday is Bounty Day, celebrated on 8 June, in memory of the arrival of the Pitcairn Islanders in 1856.

Local ordinances and acts apply on the island, where most laws are based on the Australian legal system. Australian common law applies when not covered by either Australian or Norfolk Island law. Suffrage is universal at age eighteen.

As a territory of Australia, Norfolk Island does not have diplomatic representation abroad, or within the territory, and is also not a participant in any international organisations, other than sporting organisations.

The flag is three vertical bands of green (hoist side), white, and green with a large green Norfolk Island pine tree centered in the slightly wider white band.

Constitutional status

The exact status of Norfolk Island is controversial. Despite the island's status as a self-governing territory of Australia administered by the Attorney-General's Department, some Islanders claim that it was actually granted independence at the time Queen Victoria granted permission to Pitcairn Islanders to re-settle on the island. These views have been repeatedly rejected by the Australian parliament's joint committee on territories, most recently in 2004, and were also rejected by the High Court of Australia in Berwick Limited v R R Gray Deputy Commissioner of Taxation.

Disagreements over the island's relationship with Australia were put in sharper relief by a 2006 review undertaken by the Australian Government. Under the more radical of two models proposed in the review, the island's legislative assembly would have been reduced to the status of a local council. However, in December 2006, citing the "significant disruption" that changes to the governance would impose on the island's economy, the Australian Government ended the review leaving the existing governance arrangements unaltered.

Immigration and citizenship

The island is subject to separate immigration controls from the remainder of the nation.

Australian citizens and residents from other parts of the nation do not have automatic right of residence on the island. Australian citizens must carry either a passport or a Document of Identity to travel to Norfolk Island. Citizens of all other nations must carry a passport to travel to Norfolk Island even if arriving from other parts of Australia. Holders of Australian visas who travel to Norfolk Island have departed the Australian Migration Zone. Unless they hold a multiple-entry visa, the visa will have ceased; in which case they will require another visa to re-enter mainland Australia.

Residency on Norfolk Island requires sponsorship by an existing resident of Norfolk Island or a business operating on the island. Temporary residency may also be granted to skilled workers necessary for the island's services (for example, medical, government and teaching staff).

Non-Australian citizens who are permanent residents of Norfolk Island may apply for Australian citizenship after meeting normal residence requirements and are eligible to take up residence in mainland Australia at any time through the use of a Permanent Resident of Norfolk Island visa. Children born on Norfolk Island are Australian citizens as specified by Australian nationality law.

Non-Australian citizens who are Australian permanent residents should be aware that during their stay on Norfolk Island they are "outside of Australia" for the purposes of the Migration Act. This means that not only will they need a still-valid migrant visa or Resident return visa to return from Norfolk Island to the mainland, but also the time spent in Norfolk Island won't be counted for satisfying the residence requirement for obtaining a Resident return visa in the future. On the other hand, as far as Australian nationality law is concerned, Norfolk Island is a part of Australia, and any time spent by an Australian permanent resident on Norfolk Island apparently would count as time spent in Australia for the purposes of applying for Australian citizenship.

Medicare

Medicare does not cover Norfolk Island. All visitors to Norfolk Island, including Australians, are recommended to purchase travel insurance. Serious medical conditions are not treated on the island; rather, the patient is flown back to mainland Australia. Air charter transport can cost in the order of $25,000.

Crime

Though usually peaceful, Norfolk Island has been the site of two murders in the 21st century. In 2002, Janelle Patton, an Australian living on the island, was murdered. Two years later, the Deputy Chief Minister of the island, Ivens Buffett, was found shot dead, becoming the first Australian minister to be murdered in office. Crime incidence is generally low on the island, although recent reports indicate that petty theft and dangerous driving are becoming more prevalent.

The Patton murder prompted considerable debate, with some residents arguing that traditional loyalties would prevent a local being charged. In February 2006, however, 28-year-old New Zealand chef Glenn McNeill was arrested and charged with Patton's murder. McNeill had been working on Norfolk at the time, and claimed at hearings in Australia and on Norfolk Island that he accidentally hit Patton with his car, a statement he later retracted. His trial ended on 9 March 2007, when the 11-person jury returned a guilty verdict.

On 25 July 2007, McNeill was sentenced to a maximum 24 years in jail. Norfolk Island's Chief Justice Mark Weinberg, in a sentence handed down in a Sydney courthouse and broadcast live to Norfolk Island's court, said McNeill may be eligible for release after a minimum 18 years in prison. McNeill will serve his sentence in Australia.

Economy

Tourism, the primary economic activity, has steadily increased over the years. As Norfolk Island prohibits the importation of fresh fruit and vegetables, most produce is grown locally. Beef is both produced locally and imported.

The Australian Government controls the exclusive economic zone extending around Norfolk Island (370 km) and territorial sea claims to three nautical miles (6 km) from the island. The exclusive economic zone provides the islanders with fish, its only major natural resource. Norfolk Island has no direct control over any marine areas but has an agreement with the Commonwealth through the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) to fish "recreationally" in a small section of the EEZ known locally as "the Box". While there is speculation that the zone may include oil and gas deposits this is not proven.

There are no major arable lands or permanent farmlands, though about 25 per cent of the island is a permanent pasture. There is no irrigated land.

The island uses the Australian dollar as its currency.

Taxes

Residents of Norfolk Island do not pay Australian federal taxes, creating a tax haven for locals and visitors alike. Since there is no income tax, the island's legislative assembly raises money through an import duty.

Demographics

The population of Norfolk Island was estimated in July 2003 to be 1,853, with an annual population growth rate of -0.01%. In July 2003, 20.2% of the population were 14 years and under, 63.9% were 15 to 64 years and 15.9% were 65 years and over.

Most Islanders are of either European-only or combined European-Tahitian ancestry, being descendants of the Bounty mutineers as well as more recent arrivals from Australia and New Zealand. About half of the islanders can trace their roots back to Pitcairn Island.

This common heritage has led to a limited number of surnames amongst the Islanders — a limit constraining enough that the island's telephone directory lists people by nickname (such as Cane Toad, Dar Bizziebee, Kik Kik, Lettuce Leaf, Mutty, Oot, Paw Paw, Snoop, Tarzan, and Wiggy).

The majority of Islanders are Protestant Christians. In 1996, 37.4% identified as Anglican, 14.5% as Uniting Church, 11.5% as Roman Catholic and 3.1% as Seventh-day Adventist.

Literacy is not recorded officially, but it can be assumed to be roughly at a par with Australia's literacy rate, as Islanders attend a school which uses a New South Wales curriculum, before traditionally moving to the mainland for further study.

Islanders speak both English and a creole language known as Norfuk, a blend of 1700s English and Tahitian. The Norfuk language is decreasing in popularity as more tourists travel to the island and more young people leave for work and study reasons; however, there are efforts to keep it alive via dictionaries and the renaming of some tourist attractions to their Norfuk equivalents. In April 2005, it was declared a co-official language of the island.

Emigration is growing as many Islanders take advantage of the close ties between Norfolk and Australia and New Zealand. The sole school on the island provides education to Australian Year 12; therefore, any student seeking to complete tertiary study must travel overseas. Additionally, the small economy of the island causes many skilled workers to emigrate as well.

Transport and communications

There are no railways, waterways, ports or harbours on the island. Loading jetties are located at Kingston and Cascade, but ships cannot get close to either of them. When a supply ship arrives, it is emptied by whaleboats towed by launches, five tonnes at a time. Which jetty is used depends on the prevailing weather on the day. The jetty on the leeward side of the island is often used. If the wind changes significantly during unloading/loading, the ship will move around to the other side. Visitors often gather to watch the activity when a supply ship arrives.

There is one airport, Norfolk Island Airport.

There are of roads on the island, "little more than country lanes", but local law gives cows the right of way.

As of 2004, 2532 telephone main lines are in use, a mix of analog (2500) and digital (32) circuits. Satellite service is planned.

There is one TV station featuring local programming Norfolk TV, plus transmitters for ABC TV and Southern Cross Television.

The Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) is .nf.

Culture

While there was no "indigenous" culture on the Island at the time of settlement, the Tahitian influence of the Pitcairn settlers has resulted in some aspects of Polynesian culture being adapted to that of Norfolk, including the hula dance. Local cuisine also shows influences from the same region.

Islanders traditionally spend a lot of time outdoors, with fishing and other aquatic pursuits being common pastimes, an aspect which has become more noticeable as the island becomes more accessible to tourism. Most island families have at least one member involved in primary production in some form.

As all the Pitcairn settlers were related to each other, Islanders have historically been informal both to each other and to visitors. The most noticeable aspect of this is the "Norfolk Wave", with drivers waving to each other (ranging from a wave using the entire arm through to a raised index finger from the steering wheel) as they pass.

Religious observance remains an important part of life for most Islanders, particularly the older generations. Businesses tend to be closed on Mondays, for example.

One of the island's residents is the novelist Colleen McCullough, whose works include The Thorn Birds and the Masters of Rome series as well as Morgan's Run, set, in large part, on Norfolk Island.

Helen Reddy also moved to the island for a period but was denied a long term entry permit.

References

  • Anderson, Atholl J., The Prehistoric Archaeology of Norfolk Island, Southwest Pacific, Canberra, Australian National Museum, 2001.
  • Andrew Kippis, The Life and Voyages of Captain James Cook, Westminster 1788, Reprint London and New York 1904, pp. 246 ff

History of penal settlements:

Notes

See also

External links

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