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Norfolk Island

Territory of Norfolk Island
Flag of Norfolk Island
(In detail) (In detail )
National Motto: Australia's Gateway Island
Location of Norfolk Island
Official language English
Capital Kingston &nbsp¹
Largest city Burnt Pine&nbsp²
Chief of State Queen Elizabeth II
Chief Minister Geoffrey Robert Gardner
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 6th (Australia)
34.6 km²
 - Total
 - Density
Ranked 232nd (July 2004)
53.2 km²
Independence territory of Australia
Currency Australian dollar (AUD)
Time zone UTC +11˝
National anthem Advance Australia Fair
Internet TLD .nf
Calling Code 672
(1), (2) See Capital on discussion

Norfolk Island is an island in the Pacific Ocean located between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia, and is one of Australia's external territories. The island is 34 km˛. The Norfolk Island pine, also pictured in the flag, is a very striking evergreen tree that originates from the island and is quite popular in Australia.



The first European known to have sighted the island was Captain James Cook, in 1774, on his second voyage to the South Pacific. There is some evidence of earlier settlement by Polynesians. The British established their first penal colony on the island (1788-1814) to prevent the island falling into French hands. That colony was abandoned when it failed to be self-supporting. A second penal colony was set-up in 1825 and lasted until 1855. Its purpose was one of incarceration of hardened criminals. It is said that convicts went to the gallows glad to be released from the Hell on Earth that was Norfolk Island.

In 1856, the island was resettled by Pitcairn Islanders, descendants of Tahitians and the HMAV Bounty mutineers.


Norfolk Island is located in the South Pacific Ocean, east of Australia. Its geographical coordinates are 29 02 S, 167 57 E. The island has an area of 34.6 sq. km. with no large-scale bodies of water. It has no land boundaries with any foreign country and has 32km of coastline. The island's highest point is Mt. Bates (319 metres above sea level), located in the north-west quadrant of the island. The majority of the terrain is suitable for farming and other agricultural uses.

The coastline of the island consists, to varying degrees, of cliff faces. A downwards 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 is sometimes done at Ball Bay.

Norfolk Island claims an exclusive fishing zone extending 200 nautical miles and territorial sea claims to three nautical miles from the island. The climate is subtropical and mild, with little seasonal differentiation. The island is a volcanic formation with mostly rolling plains.

Location of Norfolk Island

The only major natural resource of Norfolk Island is fish. There are no major arable lands of permanent farmlands, though about 25% of the island is a permanent pasture. There is no irrigated land.

The area surrounding the highest point of the island, 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 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.

From May to July, cyclones are a constant problem.


The Norfolk Island chief of state is Queen Elizabeth II, while the Australian government, through an Administrator (currently Grant Tambling ) appointed by the Governor General of Australia, administers the island's external affairs. There is also a Legislative Assembly elected by popular vote for a term of not more than three years.

The Assembly contains nine seats, with all electors having nine equal votes but only being able to give four of them 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 Geoffrey Robert Gardner. All seats are held by independent candidates as Norfolk Island does not have political parties.

The island's official capital is Kingston , however see below. The most important national holiday is Bounty Day , celebrated on June 8, 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. English 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 organizations, other than sporting organizations.

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.

Administrative Divisions

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.

Relations with Australia

Controversy exists as to the exact status of Norfolk Island, with some Islanders claiming that it was actually granted independence at the time of re-settlement. However, locals have the distinct advantage of not having to pay Australian taxes - creating a tax haven for local and visitor alike.

Although many Norfolk Islanders hold Australian citizenship and travel on Australian passports, Australian citizens and residents from other parts of the nation do not have automatic right of residence on the island. Australian citizens travelling to Norfolk Island must either carry a passport or a permit to travel to Norfolk Island (available at Australia Post outlets). Citizens of all other nations must carry a passport to travel to Norfolk Island even if arriving from other parts of Australia.

Residency on Norfolk Island is normally granted in a manner similar to most sovereign nations today - sponsorship must be made 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 - examples are medical, government and teaching staff.


Though usually peaceful, Norfolk Island has been the site of two murders in the 2000s so far. The Deputy Chief Minister of the island, Ivens Buffett, was found shot dead in 2004, two years after the body of Janelle Patton was found. The murders are not believed to be related.


Tourism, the primary economic activity, has steadily increased over the years and has brought a level of prosperity unusual among inhabitants of the Pacific islands. The agricultural sector has become self-sufficient in the production of beef, poultry, and eggs. Exports with Australia, other Pacific island countries, NZ, Asia, and Europe include postage stamps, seeds of the Norfolk Island pine and Kentia palm, and small quantities of avocados. The Australian dollar is the currency used.


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.

Emigration is growing as many Islanders take advantage of the close ties between Norfolk and Australia and New Zealand. The one 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. Literacy is not recorded officially, but it can be assumed to be roughly at a par with Australia's literacy rate of 100%.

Most Islanders are of Caucasian ancestry, being descendants of the Bounty Mutineers as well as more recent arrivals from Australia and New Zealand. The Bounty descendants have some Polynesian stock, however only a minority consider themselves ethnically Polynesian.

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.

Islanders speak both English and a 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.

Transportation and communications

There are no railways, waterways, or ports or harbours on the island. Loading jetties are located at Kingston and Cascade. One paved airport also exists, with a runway length/width of 1950 x 113 metres. There are 80 km of highways.

As of 2004, 2,532 telephone main lines are in use, a mix of analog (2,500) and digital (32) circuits. Norfolk Island's country code is 672. Undersea coaxial cable links the island with Australia, New Zealand, and Canada; satellite service is planned for the near future. There is one local programming station plus two repeaters that bring in Australian programs by satellite. The Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) is .nf.

  • - Norfolk Island airport webpage


Norfolk Island's most famous resident is 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. Norfolk Island is also home to singer Helen Reddy, famous for the hit "I Am Woman."

External links

  • Norfolk Island - History, geographic and economic information.
  • - Norfolk Island's Official Homepage.
  • - Norfolk Island Customs.
  • - Norfolk Island Tourism.
  • Jane's Norfolk Home Page

Countries in Oceania
Australia | East Timor | Fiji | Kiribati | Marshall Islands | Federated States of Micronesia | Nauru | New Zealand | Palau | Papua New Guinea | Samoa | Solomon Islands | Tonga | Tuvalu | Vanuatu
Other political units: American Samoa | Cook Islands | Easter Island | French Polynesia | Guam | Hawaii | Maluku Islands | Midway Atoll | New Caledonia | Niue | Norfolk Island | Northern Mariana Islands | Papua (Indonesia) | Pitcairn Islands | Tokelau | Wake Island | Wallis and Futuna | West Timor

Last updated: 02-07-2005 16:09:12
Last updated: 02-26-2005 13:18:49