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Norfolk Island Regional Council matters

Following the temporary suspension of the Norfolk Island Regional Council (NIRC), the appointment of the interim administrator to run NIRC and the announcement of a public inquiry into the Council by an independent commissioner, I want to assure the community that these are normal processes designed to deliver better outcomes for Norfolk Island into the future.

Public inquiries—and the temporary suspension and interim administration process—are not uncommon in local government in NSW and other states.

They are processes designed to address critical problems in the ways a council is operating and lead to better functioning local councils.

I also want to make it clear the NIRC has been temporarily suspended—it has not been dismissed, nor brought to an end. Mr Michael Colreavy is an interim administrator.

He replaces the elected Mayor and councillors while in the role and has all the functions of NIRC. The NIRC general manager now reports to Mr Colreavy and he will be independent of the Australian Government in the way that an elected local government member is.

Mr Colreavy is a local government leader and manager with more than 37 years' experience, with a focus on regional councils. This includes 12 years as a council general manager and another eight years in local government leadership roles.

Mr Colreavy's role is entirely different to mine as a Commonwealth Administrator of Norfolk Island.

He will be on Island in the last week of February and I know you are looking forward to opportunities to meet him in person. You will hear further from him on council matters shortly.

What I want everyone to understand is that under the administration of Mr Colreavy and while the public inquiry is happening, the Council will continue operating and delivering services—your day to day interactions and services shouldn't change simply because of the administration period or inquiry.

Again, the commissioner Carolyn McNally, who will run the public inquiry into NIRC, is highly experienced as a senior executive in NSW local government, including as Secretary of the NSW Department of Planning and Environment from 2014 to 2019 with responsibilities including local government. 

Ms McNally is an independent commissioner and will have the same powers under the relevant legislation that are available to commissioners who conduct inquiries into NSW councils.

The inquiry is an important opportunity for the Norfolk Island community to contribute to the pathway for improving the operation of the local council in Norfolk Island.

Ms McNally will make information available about the inquiry in the near future.

You will also be aware the Assistant Minister has signed an order postponing the upcoming council election for 12 months, to allow for full consideration of the findings of the public inquiry, prior to an election taking place.

Now it's important to note that anything which has been done for the 13 March election—including nominations for candidates and postal votes—will have no effect now. The election process will commence again in due course and further information will be provided to the community nearer the time.

People can still enrol to vote—those arrangements haven't changed—you still need to enrol with the Australian Electoral Commission and there is information on how to do that on the Department's website at: www.regional.gov.au/territories/norfolk_island/election/

You'll hear more soon from the interim administrator Mr Colreavy and the public inquiry commissioner Ms McNally.

In the meantime, if you would like to contact them, they are available at mike.colreavy@nirc.gov.nf and carolyn.mcnally@infrastructure.gov.au or NIRCpublicinquiry@infrastructure.gov.au
Alternatively, please contact me if you have further queries.

Eric Hutchinson
Administrator of Norfolk Island
18 February 2021