Progress on Christmas and the Cocos (Keeling) Island Key Projects
01 April 2019
As the Parliamentary term draws to a close, I would like to update the communities of Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands on a number of important projects and initiatives underway.
The Coalition Government is placing a strong emphasis on economic development and improving liveability, in line with priorities identified by the local community. I am continuing to work closely with the Administrator, Mrs Natasha Griggs to progress a range of important projects.
I thank everyone for taking time to provide your views on the Christmas Island Strategic Assessment. This work will deliver a long-term plan to support economic activity, while preserving the unique flora, fauna and heritage of the island. Public consultation on the draft Terms of Reference closed on Friday 29 March 2019. I expect the Terms of Reference will be released shortly.
The Government is also completing a Heritage Management Plan for Christmas Island to provide a framework for the preservation of its unique natural and historic infrastructure. Expert advisers will be on Christmas Island over the next few months to begin this important work.
Mrs Griggs and the Regional Development Organisation (RDO) have highlighted the potential for tourism to drive economic activity. To this end, the Government continues to support marketing and promotion activities by providing funding to the local tourism associations. I encourage local businesses to think creatively and work with the tourism associations on initiatives to promote the islands. I am also considering more ways the Government can support tourism, marketing and promotion activities for the Indian Ocean Territories, and will provide another update on this soon.
The proposal to re-establish an integrated resort, with casino licence on Christmas Island continues. While I had hoped a decision could be made by February, the complexity and amount of the work involved requires more time to examine the matter comprehensively. The most important thing is to provide certainty to the community and to ensure the decision is the right one.
With respect to work undertaken to date, progress has been made to test market interest, consider how a licence might be structured and to explore the legal and regulatory framework. In February, I met with the WA Premier and secured his in-principle agreement to provide regulatory services for a potential casino on Christmas Island.
More work will be required to examine likely service delivery arrangements and costs. Key areas of work that are continuing include a focus on minimising the potential social impacts of gambling, understanding the infrastructure required to support a casino operation, determining an appropriate casino licence tax regime and community benefit fund, and developing licence conditions. Concerns about community safety and national security are also being carefully considered.
A returned Coalition Government will ensure a decision on whether to re-issue a casino license remains at the top of the priorities.
I am very pleased that the Strategic Plan for Christmas Island is complete, and the Strategic Plan for the Cocos (Keeling) Islands is very close to completion. The Government will continue to support the building of community infrastructure and strengthening community cohesion by working with the RDO as these plans are implemented over time. The Plans are based on extensive community consultation and set a vision to 2030. I look forward to working with Mrs Griggs and the community to progress recommendations in these very important documents.
The Government has also been working proactively to ensure the Indian Ocean Territories Health Service continues to provide high quality health services and meet the emerging needs of communities. The Department released the independent review report last week. The Department seeks your comments on the report recommendations. Once finalised, it this work will inform the development of a Five Year Strategic Plan for the Health Service. This will ensure the way forward includes community views to the maximum extent possible.
I am pleased the upgrades to the Christmas Island port and mooring systems are progressing and we are getting closer to construction. The upgrades will ensure the reliability of shipping services, including the delivery of goods to local businesses. The funding has already been made available by the Government, and my Office and Department will continue to work hard this week, when Parliament is sitting, to finalise the procedural aspects of this work. I understand the EOI process for a contractor to undertake the work has commenced.
The Christmas Island Ports Masterplan is nearing completion and recent improvements to the stormwater systems at the Drumsite has reduced erosion of the escarpment below.
I am also pleased that the replacement of the ferry engines and the Search and Rescue vessel on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands will improve the reliability of services to the community and safety outcomes in emergency events.
Also with respect to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, the project to upgrade the airport runway is progressing. Defence will deliver information sessions to industry about the project in April. The Administrator and I will continue to make representations about the importance of these projects to local employment.
The Department also continues to work with the WA Government to finalise arrangements for the release of Crown land on Christmas Island. We expect valuers on island in coming weeks to determine appropriate market values for identified parcels, which are expected to go to sale in the second half of 2019.
I hope this update is helpful. I will provide a further update to the community following the release of the Government’s 2019-20 Budget on 2 April 2019.