Cube Group to review crisis management of Norfolk Island

16 August 2020 3 min. read

The Australian government has hired Cube Group to conduct an independent review of the emergency management arrangements on Norfolk Island. 

Located 1,600 kilometres east of mainland Australia, Norfolk Island has in recent years struggled with a food supply crisis, which has left supermarket shelves bare and farmers without food for livestock. Meanwhile, a shortage of critical supplies has also seen industries such as hospitality, construction and infrastructure struggle to meet demands.

The island – an external Australian territory that has been under mainland governance since 2016 – is heavily reliant on the import of goods and products, but has seen stocks dry up due to shipping and logistical issues. The island currently only has one pier available for offloading containers, and on top of that, its port facilities are not resilient enough to cope with bad weather. 

Norfolk Island is famed for its rough seas, and when a harsh storm comes by, cargo boats have to wait for days until it's safe to be unloaded. This problem is putting pressure on shipping companies who lose money every day they have to wait, and in December last year the island was dealt an according to many “inevitable blow” when it lost its regular, twice-monthly shipping deliveries.

Cube Group to review crisis management of Norfolk Island

While the Australian government has since supported Norfolk’s citizens with air freight, this has not been able to resolve the island’s hardship. Air freight has serious limitations, including significantly less space and high freight costs. In particular heavy goods – flour, sugar, packaged milk, stock food, chook and pet-food, all canned and bottled products – can’t economically be carried by air.

The crisis on the island has recently been exacerbated by water scarcity and the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, the island was forced to implement some of Australia's strictest coronavirus measures earlier this year, including the prospect of facing jail for leaving the house during the lockdown period.

The cumulation of developments has left many of the small, close-knit community (1,750 residents) desperate for help, and has sparked calls for more government support.

Improving the situation

Against this backdrop, the Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories Nola Marino decided to launch an independent review of the emergency management arrangements on Norfolk Island.

The assessment aims at understanding how the island and the community currently prepares for, responds to and recovers from emergencies and crisis situations. It will scrutinise Norfolk Island’s existing emergency management arrangements – the Disaster and Emergency Management Act 2001 (NI) and Nordisplan – as well as state-type emergency services. 

To lead the review the government has tapped Cube Group, a consulting firm specialised in the field. Commenting on why the Melbourne-based consultancy was picked, Nola Marino, said: “Cube Group have extensive experience in delivering emergency management projects, including the delivery of a national review of emergency warnings and information.” 

“We're delighted to be bringing our emergency management and digital engagement expertise to the people of Norfolk Island.”
– Ben Schramm, Managing Partner of Cube Group

She added that the review will include the views of local communities. “Community and stakeholder engagement is critical to the review process. This review comes at a time where the whole community has been, and will continue to be, significantly affected by the current pandemic, making their feedback highly relevant and timely for this review.” 

“Community members are often the first responders when an emergency or incident occurs, and their local knowledge and expertise are vital to informing the future emergency management arrangements for Norfolk Island.” 

The assessment is planned for completion in December this year. Using the report’s findings, the government will seek ways to improve the governance, processes and potentially federal support.