An island over 1000km from the Australian mainland is set to switch state allegiances over its health and schooling services.
It is the tiny Aussie island where cows have right of way, the locals have their own language and Noumea is a closer neighbour than Sydney or Brisbane.
And from the start of 2022, another administrative quirk is set to change the landscape for Norfolk Island residents.
Schooling and health services on the remote South Pacific outcrop will be provided by Queensland from January 1, under a new federal funding deal that is set to increasingly transfer jurisdiction of the island away from NSW.
Norfolk, about 8km long by 5km wide, is in the seventh year of Federal government administration after its own self-management was scrapped in 2015 amid mounting economic issues.
Since then, the health and schooling services for the island’s 1700 permanent residents have been managed by NSW from more than 1400km away, at a reported cost of more than $30 million a year.
The 2021-22 federal budget committed $18.7 million to help NSW deliver on services on Norfolk Island, including one hospital, a multipurpose residential aged care facility and a Central School which, in 2018, had 280 students.
Hints that Queensland was sizing up Norfolk emerged earlier this year when Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk noted NSW was looking at “abandoning its responsibilities”.
NSW had intended to cease management of the island in June, but extended that until December 31 while negotiating was underway.
Details of the Queensland-Federal arrangement have been scant since an agreement was struck in June, but on Tuesday an official date of January 1 was set down.
Queensland said it was best-placed to care for the island, given its experience and history managing small, remote communities.
Other services could also soon come under the Queensland banner as the agreement progresses.
“I’m proud of the Queensland Government’s long history of delivering world-class services to geographically remote locations, and we look forward to tailoring future delivery models to address the unique and long-term needs of the Norfolk Island community,” Premier Palaszczuk said.
Norfolk Island’s current head honcho is former federal Tasmanian Liberal MP Eric Hutchinson, who was appointed as the island’s administrator for a third two-year term in March.
Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace led a fact-finding mission to the island in April, with Ms Palaszczuk noting “almost every person the delegation spoke to had some connection to Queensland”.
“From family living here or children studying here, to where they travel to, or to access specialist health services – many were saying they had a preference for Queensland health services,” Ms Palaszczuk said.