Australian law in action on Norfolk Island

(AAP / file)
(AAP / file)

Protests against an alleged Australian takeover on the remote Norfolk Island is expected to reach boiling point today.

Last year Canberra dissolved the island's parliament and it will now be run by a new regional council under New South Wales.

Norfolk is a tiny piece of land in the middle of the South Pacific, geographically closer to New Zealand than Australia.

On Friday it's coming under New South Wales law, although the islanders won't be able to vote in the state, instead only having a say in federal elections.

A local GST system will be scrapped, and residents will have to pay income and company tax for the first time, as well as land rates to the new council. 

A tent city has occupied the grounds of the old parliament building for the past two months, and a protest march is planned for this afternoon.

Opposition group Norfolk Island People for Democracy, whose members comprise more than half the island's population, says residents have been stripped of their self-determination.

President Chris Magri says the island does not necessarily want to become an independent state, but to retain its self-governance as an external territory of Australia.

"Our preference is for self-government in free association with Australia," Mr Magri says.

"It would be similar to the relationship the Cook Islands enjoys with New Zealand. That's what we aspire to."

But the island's administrator, Gary Hardgrave, says the reforms are aimed at giving residents access to federal services, like healthcare and welfare, for the first time.

Since 2010, Norfolk has been receiving millions of dollars in Australian government subsidies. The global financial crisis crippled the island's crucial tourism industry, and it has struggled to recover. 

"The place ended up a genuine mess," Mr Hargrave says. "Healthcare, social security, all those things kept getting worse and worse and worse.

"The government said this place can't cope - it's become a failed state."

The island's New Zealand-born residents will now have to apply for a visa to remain there.

Geoff Bennett is a New Zealand passport holder who's lived on the island for more than 50 years and owns a local supermarket. Under the old system, he was a fully franchised resident.

"Essentially I've lost my rights," Mr Bennett says. "Unless I take out Australian citizenship I can't vote or stand for council.

"What does that say about nationality? I value my nationality, and to change it would be prostituting it."

Mr Bennett is considering relocating to New Zealand, which he says is a "gut-wrenching decision". 

Newshub.

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