Public inquiry into the Norfolk Island Regional Council

Following my decision on 3 February to temporarily suspend the Norfolk Island Regional Council (NIRC), I am announcing a public inquiry into whether the NIRC has fulfilled its financial and asset management obligations under the Local Government Act 1993 (NSW) (NI) (Act).

Public inquiries are an important part of government oversight of council performance, but are conducted by an independent commissioner.

I have appointed Ms Carolyn McNally as commissioner to hold the public inquiry. Ms McNally has held senior positions in the Australian and New South Wales (NSW) public services, including as Secretary of the NSW Department of Planning and Environment from 2014 to 2019, with responsibilities including local government. Ms McNally will have the same powers under the Act that are available to commissioners who conduct inquiries into NSW councils.

The inquiry will examine critical challenges facing the NIRC and whether it is discharging financial and asset management responsibilities under the Act. The NIRC’s financial and asset management was identified as a significant area of concern in the recent independent audit reports.

At the conclusion of the inquiry, the commissioner will present me with a report outlining her findings in relation to the Terms of Reference.

The Terms of Reference, along with a short fact sheet, are available on the department’s website at www.regional.gov.au/territories/norfolk_island/governance/nirc.aspx

The NIRC will remain under its current temporary suspension and interim administration. At the conclusion of this three-month suspension period, I will make a further decision on this matter. During the temporary suspension of the NIRC, the day-to-day functions of the NIRC will continue, with the ongoing delivery of essential services to the community.

I have also signed an order postponing the upcoming council election for 12 months, in line with my powers under the legislation. This will enable full consideration of the findings of the public inquiry, prior to an election taking place.

I am fully committed to achieving the best outcomes for the Norfolk Island community by pursuing a properly functioning local council in Norfolk Island. Further information about the inquiry will be available soon.