Around 500 km north of Western Australia’s capital city of Perth lies one of the world’s smallest sovereign states — the Principality of Hutt River. With a population of 23, the tiny province is roughly the same size as Hong Kong. For decades, it was considered a popular destination for travellers seeking a stamp in their passports from one of the oldest micronations in the world.
This was until the coronavirus pandemic hit. The province was forced to close its borders to tourists in January, this year. Burdened with a flailing tourism sector and seemingly insurmountable debt, the Principality of Hutt River has announced that it will be reintegrating with Australia, more than 50 years after it first seceded from the country following a dispute over wheat production quotas.
The property will be sold as farmland to pay off the debt owed to Australia’s Taxation Office, the principalities’ leader Prince Graeme Casley has confirmed. The ATO has long been pursuing the tiny principality over unpaid debts. After losing a Supreme Court battle in 2017, the royal family of Hutt River was ordered to pay $3 million to the Australian taxation authorities.
“PHR (The principality of Hutt River) will not be continuing in such harsh times (as many others are also facing),” Prince Casley told the Guardian on Monday.
The principality has had a strained relationship with Australia long before the pandemic set in. Australia has refused to accept its independent status since its inception. In 1977, Hutt River briefly declared war on Australia after repeated demands for payments by the ATO.
Remembering the micronation’s history, spanning over five decades, Prince Casley told Australian news network ABC, “You just have to keep the archives and hope the story continues for the family.”
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