Message from the Hon Nola Marino MP

Dear Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands residents,

Reflecting on 2019, firstly - thank you for welcoming me as your Minister in May, and during my visits to Christmas Island (CI) in August, and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands (CKI) in September.

It was important for me to experience the IOT for myself, and hear directly from you about issues important to you, including ensuring economically diverse and sustainable communities and drawing on your strengths and community leadership.

During my visits, I was pleased to announce $500,000 funding to implement projects aligned to actions in your Our Christmas Island 2030 Strategic Plan and Our Cocos (Keeling) Islands 2030 Strategic Plan.

On CI, this included funding to upgrade the outdoor cinema and cricket and sporting club, expand on the day care facility and the development of a nature-based play space at the Tea Gardens to enhance the wellbeing of children.

On CKI, funds were provided for projects on Home and West Island in line with the community-owned master plan to improve community infrastructure including upgrades at Trannies Beach and Sandy Point, and to the integral waste transfer station.

Significant investment has also been made by the Government, through the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development (the Department), in service delivery and capital works projects in the IOT. These projects provide vital infrastructure at schools, airports, ports, and health services, including new medical, radiology and dental equipment.

This year, the Australian Government also continued to invest in major initiatives to diversify the local economies, and create local jobs. I have released the Terms of Reference for the independent Review of Tourism in the IOT. This includes the development of a Tourism Action Plan which will explore the tourism initiatives identified through your community-led Strategic Plans to support growth opportunities and boost employment. The tourism review is now under way with Deloitte visiting both CI and CKI where they met with the tourism associations and stakeholders.

Significant progress has also been made on the Strategic Assessment of CI under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. We are working with stakeholders, including the Department of the Environment and Energy, and the local Community Reference Group, to ensure the Strategic Assessment Plan is practical, and consistent with community aspirations.

The Plan will support economic activity by enabling a whole-of-island approach to development, planning, and environmental protection, and will provide certainty to potential investors, and streamline development approval processes.

In 2019, the Australian Government commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to review the IOT Health Service (IOTHS). The Final Report on the IOT Health Service, was released in March, and includes an assessment of community health needs, analysis of health services in comparable remote communities, and strategic initiatives to address emerging issues.

The Department consulted with the community in May, and feedback has informed development of a Five-Year Strategic Plan for the IOTHS, which I expect to release early in 2020. As a strong and resilient community, it is critical that you continue to contribute to your future, as you have done with your participation in the development of the various plans.

Our key priorities in 2020 will be their completion, and implementation.

As your Ministerial voice in Canberra, I will continue to work with you and the Administrator of CI and CKI, Mrs Natasha Griggs.

We have much to celebrate in the New Year including the recently announced $4.2 million funding boost for CI projects focused on creating local jobs and growing a sustainable economy based on the Island’s natural advantages of environment, tourism, science and research.

And a further $1.18 million has been secured for a fire truck on CI. This will enhance the Island’s ability to respond to emergencies on the Island.

Thank you again for welcoming me as your Minister in 2019. I look forward to continuing to work with you and the Administrator in 2020 to progress important initiatives.