Norfolk Island is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to being a part of Australia. Though it is technically one of the country’s external territories and is part of the Commonwealth of Australia for many years it had its own independent postal service, conducted its own independent Census and paid no federal taxes.
Visiting the island has long been considered ‘international travel’ but changes were made on 1st July 2016 that you need to be aware of if you intend to visit. Curious? Read on.
The island is a dot (8km long and 5km wide) in the Pacific Ocean, located approximately 1,670kms ENE of Sydney, but 1,000 directly east of the Australian coast. The total land area is just 3,455 hectares. Flights from Sydney or Brisbane take around two and a half hours. If you’re going to travel there – and you should as it’s a stunning part of the world – it is advisable to purchase travel insurance because wherever you go in the world, insuring against unforeseen losses, delays, cancellations and health issues is important.
The population of Norfolk Island, as at the last locally executed Census in 2011 was 1,796. Eighty per cent were Australian citizens, with 13 per cent holding New Zealand citizenship. Around one third were descendants of the Pitcairn Islanders who arrived in 1856 and settled there. While most people speak English, some speak Norf’k, a blend of Tahitian and Old English.
The island’s most famous resident, Thorn Birds author Colleen McCullough passed away there on 29th January 2015, aged 77. Visitors can take a tour of her home and learn about her life.
As of 1st July 2016, flights between mainland Australia (via Sydney or Brisbane) and Norfolk Island are classed as domestic flights. For Australian residents, passports and visas are no longer required but photographic identification must be presented. An Australian driver’s license may be sufficient to move through Customs and Immigration but if you have a current passport, this is the preferred means of identification and will prevent delays in passenger processing. For residents of New Zealand and other countries, travel to Norfolk Island is still an international movement.
If you are not travelling on an Australian or New Zealand passport, or you don’t hold a passport endorsed with Permanent Resident of Norfolk Island visa label, then you will require an Australian visa. It must be valid for a period of 30 days beyond the period you intend to stay on the island. If your arrival is via Australia, then that visa must be a multiple one. Be advised that your Norfolk Island travel insurance policy* will not cover losses based on ignorance of the visa regulations. It is important with all travel that you make yourself aware of local laws and conditions.
Also be aware that the online check-in facility for Air New Zealand passengers travelling to Norfolk Island has been disabled since 1st July 2016. That means you’ll have to check in at the airport which may require you to arrive earlier than if you were able to check in online. For those departing or arriving into Brisbane and Sydney, the Smart Gate/eGate function is no longer available. In order to avoid losses such as the cost of missing your flight and having to purchase another ticket, arrive in plenty of time for check-in as you cannot make a claim on your travel insurance for this.
As mentioned above, a number of reforms have taken place, beginning in March 2015. The Australian Government took these actions to address sustainability issues that have arisen from the self-government model. Known as the Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Act 2015, the reforms allow the Australian Government to assume responsibility for funding and delivering national and state level services. As a result, various national arrangements which previously didn’t apply to the island, now do. These include taxation, biosecurity, customers, immigration, social security and health arrangements such as Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). The Act also means it is compulsory for residents of Norfolk Island to vote in federal elections and provides for the island to be represented in a single electorate in the Australian Capital Territory.
The reforms now mean that, unlike with the previous system, you will be covered by the same health care system as on mainland Australia. Previously, you would have had to make a claim on your travel insurance if you experienced injury or illness or, heaven forbid, passed away. Now, however, if you are eligible for Medicare coverage and the PBS, you will be entitled to the same on the island. For those who are not eligible for these entitlements, then you will still need to be covered by a travel insurance policy if you wish to claim for health care related issues.
One of the great things that remains from the old rules is that duty free shopping is still permitted, as though travelling to Norfolk Island was still considered ‘international travel’. Although islanders now pay Commonwealth taxes, the GST has not been introduced so you can shop for high end brands of skincare, cosmetics and fragrances at local outlets.
Small island, yes - but one look at the
activities and tours that you can do on Norfolk Island will mean that you’ll want to book at least a week there! Be sure to purchase travel insurance to cover any unforseen delays or cancellations for tours, hire cars and flights.
You might enjoy reading this list of 101 things to do in order to best plan your trip.
For those of you reading this who feel like travelling overseas for their holidays, Norfolk Island represents the best of both worlds. It’s only a short plane trip away, it offers an abundance of things to see, do, eat, drink and play and there’s a variety of accommodation options to suit all budgets.
Do a little research and before long, you’ll be shortlisting the island for your next holiday!