News ‘A very serious situation’: Norfolk Island experiencing dire food shortage

‘A very serious situation’: Norfolk Island experiencing dire food shortage

The main supermarket on Norfolk Island is running low. Photo: Kim Davies
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Norfolk Island is experiencing a “dire” food shortage that has left supermarket shelves empty and residents resorting to ordering essentials via Australia Post.

Residents on the island, which has not had a regular shipping service since November as there are no suitable ships to service the island, told The New Daily they had never seen food supplies get so low.

Kim Davies, 62, who has lived on the island his whole life, said they were entering a food crisis.

“It’s in dire straights. I’ve lived here all my life and never has it been like this before,” Mr Davies said.

“People can’t get enough food, essential items like groceries.

“Right at this moment the island has no chook feed. You can’t get honey, there’s no rice, they’re running short on cooking oil, there’s no kegs of beer left.”

Mr Davies said he had never seen the shelves so empty. Photo: Kim Davies

The island, situated in the South Pacific Ocean between New Caledonia and New Zealand, is already experiencing a severe drought, and is extracting its water from an emergency purification and desalination plant flown in by the Australian Defence Force.

The emerging food crisis is only adding to stress caused by the drought, Mr Davies said.

“No one seems to be taking it seriously that we need a shipping service,” he said.

“People here are trying to order things in Express Post now.

“Neither the council, or Commonwealth administrators office are keeping the community informed. People here are very nervous.”

Empty supermarket shelves at Foodland. Photo: Kim Davies

The island has a population of just over 2000 people and is heavily reliant on tourism.

Mr Davies, who works as a tour guide, said visitors shouldn’t be afraid of still coming.

“We have to be careful about frightening visitors into not coming. The council here and the Commonwealth need to lift their game to get our basic requirements,” he said.

His photos show the local supermarket, Foodland, completely empty.

Owner Geoff Bennett said the pictures only show the shelves that are bare, but the situation was “concerning”.

“We’re the major importers of food and we’re having a rough time because of the lack of transport options,” Mr Bennett said.

“It’s a very serious situation. The fact is, we are desperately short of food.”

In response to concerns, the Commonwealth administrator has allocated a fortnightly charter plane from Brisbane, but this is nowhere near enough to meet demand for the island, he said.

Norfolk Island is a popular tourist destination. Photo: AAP

“We’ve been able to get six tonnes of space on Friday,” Mr Bennett said.

“Eight tonnes on Saturday and we’ve charted a plane to bring 17 tonnes the following Saturday. We need 400 tonnes to fully stock up again. To put that in context, it’s about 70 Boeing 737s.

“The community is going berserk.”

Adding to the frustration is the fact it isn’t economically viable to fly over heavier food items, as they cost more, he said.

“A 20-litre drum of cooking oil like the restaurants use cost $60 normally, then add $100 of air freight on that. You can’t sell it for $160.

“You can only air freight 30 to 40 per cent of goods. You can’t get canned goods, bottled water, stock food, pet food. You can’t air freight that stuff.”

Milk and fresh vegetables are running low, but locals are working hard to find solutions.

The authorities just need to notice how bad the problem is, he said.

The realisation may have come on Wednesday afternoon, due to the lack of orange juice.

“The chef from government raced in and said, ‘I urgently need orange juice for dinner’, and the storeman said, ‘The closest I’ve got is Coca-Cola’ and the chef went off his nana,” Mr Bennett said.

“The guy said, ‘Don’t you realise there’s no food on the island?’ I hope the chef goes back and tells them.”

The New Daily attempted to contact the Norfolk Island Regional Council and the Commonwealth administrator who did not respond before deadline.

In November, mayor Robin Adams said he was working on getting more regular freight services

“While lack of space for freight on aircraft is an ongoing problem, it is important to remember that Air New Zealand is a passenger service underwritten by the Commonwealth to bring visitors to the island and to bring locals home to the island,” he said in an update.

“With the ongoing high passenger numbers on aircraft out of Sydney and Brisbane, regrettably uplifting freight can suffer. Developing a strategy to resolve this issue is ongoing.”

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