5 The administration of Svalbard

5 The administration of Svalbard

5.1 Introduction

When Norway was granted sovereignty over Svalbard in 1925, the authorities chose a system of administration for the archipelago that was markedly different from that on the mainland. It was decided that Svalbard was to be neither a separate county nor a municipality under one of the counties on the mainland. Instead the Storting decided to establish a new administrative institution, the Governor of Svalbard, who was to be the Government's highest representative on the archipelago and who combined a number of public functions. Given the unique conditions on Svalbard, this was an effective and practical solution. Due to the fact that the year-round activities on Svalbard were mainly connected with mining, it was logical that administrative responsibility at central level was in the beginning placed with the Ministry of Trade, later the Ministry of Industry.

The administration of Svalbard has undergone a number of major and minor changes since the Second World War. Since the mid-1970s local government has been strengthened, and during the 1990s the administration has become more like that on the mainland. The main features, however, have remained the same, and the rapid social and political changes in recent years raise the question of whether the administrative system needs to be altered.

5.2 The central administration's work on Svalbard matters

5.2.1 History

Until 1936, the various ministries had the authority to make decisions concerning Svalbard within their spheres of competence. In practice, however, the Ministry of Trade had the main responsibility because of the dominant role played by mining. In consequence, in 1936 the Government made this ministry responsible for the central government administration of Svalbard.

After the Second World War the new foreign policy situation and a number of controversial issues made this arrangement less appropriate. Thus in 1953 the responsibility for the Governor was transferred to the Ministry of Justice. In the early 1960s a number of studies were made of the administrative arrangements and as from 1965 the principle of separate authority for the various ministries was re-introduced. At the same time the Ministry of Justice was given overall coordinating responsibility with regard to central government administration, including responsibility for the Svalbard budget. An interministerial Svalbard committee, chaired by the minister of justice, was set up to attend to the coordination. In 1971 the committee's mandate was extended to include Antarctica, and its name was changed to the Interministerial Committee on Polar Affairs.

The administrative treatment of Svalbard by the central government administration has also been discussed since then. As a result of the debate on Report No. 39 (1975-76) to the Storting concerning Svalbard, a committee was set up which submitted Official Norwegian Report 1977:5 Dealing with Matters relating to Svalbard and Other Polar Questions in the Central Administration, in December 1976. The main conclusion was that the established administrative arrangement should be retained and that there was no need for a separate "directorate for polar affairs". The committee did, however, recommend setting up a department of polar affairs in the Ministry of Justice, and this was done in autumn 1978. In Report No. 40 (1985-86) to the Storting on Svalbard it is presupposed that the main features of the established structure in the central administration should be continued.

Developments on Svalbard since the 1980s have created a more differentiated community, which in turn has posed greater administrative challenges to the central administration. A number of ministries have become more closely and directly involved in the archipelago due to new or expanded activities, e.g. in the fields of commerce, culture and research. In other fields the influence of the central administration has been reduced. Tasks and responsibilities have been delegated to directorates, for example in the field of environmental protection. Some of the central government services have also been reorganized, such as the postal and telecommunications services. A generally increasing level of activity on Svalbard has meant that certain types of activity, which lie within the spheres of competence of different ministries, can sometimes come in conflict with one another. As pointed out elsewhere in this report, a conflict of interests may arise between commercial activities, research and environmental protection. The speed and nature of these changes have made it much more difficult to maintain effective central coordination of central government activity on Svalbard. Increased local democracy in Longyearbyen will also mean changes in the relationship between local and central administration in this settlement. See Chapter 14 Development of the local community in Longyearbyen, for details.

5.2.2 The Interministerial Committee on Polar Affairs

The Interministerial Svalbard Committee was established by Royal Decree of 6 January 1965. The Committee was to serve as a consultative and coordinating body for the central administration in dealing with Svalbard matters. Its tasks were set out in a circular from the prime minister dated 11 January 1965. As noted above, the scope of the Committee was extended to include the other polar areas in 1971, and its name was changed to the Interministerial Committee on Polar Affairs, cf. the Royal Decree of 6 August 1971. However, no appreciable changes were made in the Committee's tasks.

According to the circular on the coordination of polar affairs of 1979, the Ministries of Finance, Justice, the Environment, Trade and Industry, Transport and Communications and Foreign Affairs, and the Norwegian Polar Institute are all to be represented on the Committee. The Committee is formally chaired by the Minister of Justice, but since the 1980s this task has been carried out by the director general of the Polar Affairs Department at the Ministry of Justice. The department also serves as the secretariat. The composition of the Committee has changed in accordance with the reorganization of the ministries since 1979 and the changed conditions on Svalbard, but these changes have not been formalized. The Ministry of Education, Research and Church Affairs has been permanently represented on the Committee in recent years. It has also been the custom to invite representatives of other ministries and institutions when matters of interest to them are being discussed; for example the Research Council of Norway has been represented at a number of meetings.

The continuity and expertise represented by the Interministerial Committee on Polar Affairs is valuable to the central administration in its dealing with Svalbard matters. The knowledge and advice of the Committee are particularly useful in the coordination efforts of the Ministry of Justice, especially in connection with legislative matters relating to Svalbard, where the Committee functions as intended. However, the Committee has not played the role of coordinator it was originally intended to play, especially in connection with the planned appropriation of budgetary funds on Svalbard.

In the Government's view, there is no need to change the principle of the various ministries' sectoral responsibility for Svalbard. However, this principle makes it necessary to improve the central coordination of central government activity on Svalbard, both in order to safeguard important Norwegian interests on Svalbard and in order to ensure the rational use of government funds. In order to achieve this, the Government will review the coordinating role of the Interministerial Committee on Polar Affairs with special emphasis on its tasks and composition.

5.3 The Svalbard budget

Article 8, second paragraph, of the Svalbard Treaty reads as follows:

“Taxes, dues and duties levied shall be devoted exclusively to the said territories and shall not exceed what is required for the object in view.”

A separate budget for Svalbard is presented every year in order to show the revenues and expenditures on Svalbard. The expenditures consist of the specific administrative costs incurred by the state, and the revenues consist of the taxes and duties levied on the archipelago. See the tables in section 3.6 Central government transfers to Svalbard in the period 1987-1998 and a more detailed description in section 4.1.3 Taxes, dues and duties.

In addition to the Svalbard budget itself, the annual national budget proposal contains an overview of other central government transfers to Svalbard. Today these consist mainly of support for Norwegian industrial and commercial activity, research, teaching and the running of the local community in Longyearbyen. The Svalbard budget provides the Storting with information on development and investments on Svalbard.

The Government intends to continue to present a separate Svalbard budget that specifies the allocations for tasks carried out by the central administration, accompanied by a comprehensive appendix containing an overview of the central government's total transfers to the archipelago.

5.4 The Governor of Svalbard

5.4.1 Introduction

Section 5 of the Act relating to Svalbard reads as follows:

“In Svalbard there shall be a governor appointed by the King.The Governor shall have the same authority as a district governor. He is also chief of police, notary public and assistant judge in the court of first instance, in so far as no special officials are appointed to these posts.”

Box 5.1 The Governor of Svalbard

The term "sysselmann" means the highest ranking civil servant and his office, called "bestilling", is an old Norwegian term for the office of a civil servant. According to the travaux préparatoires of the Act relating to Svalbard (Recommendation O. VIII (1925)), when the Standing Committee on Justice dealt with section 5 of the Act relating to the Governor of Svalbard, the Committee assumed that the administrative arrangement and the Governor's duties could be changed after some years of experience with the arrangement. In consequence, the Governor of Svalbard was not appointed as an officer of the Crown, because under the Constitution such officials may not be dismissed.

This unique administrative arrangement was decided on by the Storting in 1925 for a number of practical and economic reasons. The population of Svalbard was very small and mainly associated with the few coal mines on the archipelago. Svalbard was isolated from the mainland for much of the year, and the mining companies were almost completely responsible for running the local communities. There was very little contact between the various settlements during the inter-war period and Svalbard had little or no strategic significance in international politics. Thus there was no need, and no political desire, to establish a strong, comprehensive local administrative authority.

With the Second World War and the cold war that followed, Svalbard took on a new importance in the struggle for supremacy between the great powers. However, on Svalbard itself it was the developments in the 1960s, especially the petroleum activities, that really created a need to strengthen the central Government presence on the archipelago. The extensive modernization of Longyearbyen in the 1970s also involved a major upgrading of the position of the Governor's office, which meant that for the first time the Governor was given resources to enforce Norwegian sovereignty. The position of Governor was essential to a process intended to establish effective enforcement of Norwegian sovereignty, especially towards foreign agents on the archipelago. This also involved responsibility for coordinating other central government activity, which had expanded during the 1970s and 1980s and taken over a number of tasks from the mining company.

From the mid-1980s the office of the Governor began to take on new and more extensive duties. The sphere of work was greatly expanded and the office was given more resources. The Governor's contact with the foreign settlements and his presence there have increased considerably. The growth in traffic and activity throughout the archipelago in connection with the increase in trade and tourism, research and commercial activity has resulted in new and more comprehensive supervisory and administrative duties, especially environmental, tourism and information matters. The need for rescue preparedness services on Svalbard has also increased. All this means that the office of the Governor has had to build up broad-based, cross-sectoral expertise. This is reflected in the current organization of the Governor's office and in the resources made available to him.

Section 5 of the Act relating to Svalbard gives the Governor a broad sphere of responsibility. As county governor, the Governor of Svalbard is responsible for local environmental management for the entire archipelago and for cultural remains, which are administered by the counties on the mainland. Other duties traditionally carried out by the county governors are decisions in the field of family law. The Governor of Svalbard also has some of the central government authority delegated by the King or a particular ministry to county governors, for example in matters relating to nationality and compensation to victims of violence. Those parts of the county governor's sphere of responsibility that are regulated by legislation not applicable to Svalbard naturally do not apply to the Governor of Svalbard. Thus the latter has a much more limited authority than a county governor on the mainland. As chief of police, the Governor of Svalbard is responsible for regular police duties and he is also responsible for the rescue services on the archipelago and adjacent waters, cf. Chapter 9 Rescue preparedness on Svalbard. The Governor has few notarial duties but performs about 20 marriages a year. His duties as associate judge are confined to a few maritime inquiries and judicial examinations a year. It should be noted that the Governor does not perform the functions of police and judge in the same case. The Governor's judicial functions are described in Official Norwegian Report 1999:19 on Courts of Law, by the Courts Commission. The Government will consider whether the Governor of Svalbard should continue to have judicial functions in the future.

Instructions for the Governor of Svalbard are set out in Royal Decree of 20 April 1979. Section 3 of the instructions concerning the Governor's sphere of responsibility and duties reads as follows:

“The Governor is the Government's highest ranking representative on Svalbard. He shall attend to the state's interests on the archipelago with its adjacent territorial waters, including Norway's rights and obligations under the Treaty of 9 February 1920 relating to Spitsbergen. He shall seek to coordinate state activities on the archipelago. He must keep himself informed about any activities that may have significance for this work. He shall work for the good of Svalbard and, in this context, take those initiatives he considers necessary. The Governor shall also perform duties imposed on him by statute, regulations or by the specific decision of a superior authority.”

The following is a more detailed account of the duties of the Governor of Svalbard.

5.4.2 Police duties

The duties of the police department include criminal investigation, search and rescue services, uniform and traffic services, crime prevention and administrative duties, for example in matters relating to weapons and in connection with driving licences. The police also carry out duties in connection with equipment and logistics.

Crime on Svalbard has remained relatively stable during the 1990s. The number of registered criminal cases has varied from 65 in 1991 to 114 in 1998, without any distinct trend being visible. Most of the criminal cases are less serious crime. The investigation of violations of environmental legislation is given priority, and the number of cases in this field is increasing. An effective tool for investigating environmental crime has been developed in the form of an integrated organizational model based on cooperation between the police and environmental experts. In 1999 drug abuse on a small scale was discovered in Longyearbyen. Cross-sectoral drug prevention efforts directed at young people are being focused.

The investigation of offences in the foreign settlements is a demanding task, but the number of reported cases is small. The Governor takes active steps to prevent and detect offences through information meetings and a police presence several times during the year.

The Governor is responsible for the investigation of industrial accidents. In practice these have mainly occurred in connection with mining. A number of deaths in the mines, and especially the explosion in the Barentsburg mine in 1997, when 23 people died, have made heavy demands on the Governor's resources.

The snow scooter traffic is in the process of being organized and regulated through cooperation at local level in order to improve safety. The police are also making active efforts to prevent accidents through public education.

Considerable resources are spent on the inspection service, which is much more comprehensive than it used to be because of the increase in tourism and other traffic. The service is carried out both winter and summer, using helicopters, snow scooters and boats. The purpose is to monitor and detect violations of the provisions concerning protection of Svalbard's natural and cultural environment.

The growing tourist traffic has resulted in increasing numbers of rescue and ambulance operations every year. The rescue service puts a strain on the office of the Governor, since the weather in the Arctic changes rapidly and conditions can soon become critical for anyone exposed to the elements. Disasters such as the air crash on the Opera-fjellet in 1996 occupied the resources of the Governor's office for a long time. The police are sufficiently manned to deal with the initial phase of a major accident until assistance from the mainland arrives. See Chapter 9 Rescue preparedness on Svalbard for further details.

5.4.3 Environmental protection duties

The Governor's environmental protection duties cover a wide field.

In the field of classical nature conservation, the Governor's duties include management of the national parks and nature reserves, the establishment of new protected areas in cooperation with the Directorate for Nature Management, and control of various types of development. In 1997 regulations on land use planning for settlement areas on Svalbard were issued, and a considerable amount of work has been done on the drafting of proposals for land-use plans by those responsible for planning (landowners) and the Governor in his capacity as planning authority. Wildlife and fisheries management has always required substantial resources. It includes traditional tasks such as issuing hunting and fishing licences and compiling catch statistics, regulating hunting and close seasons and monitoring compliance with wildlife and hunting regulations. There are special problems related to polar bears, which require action in the form of information and other measures to prevent confrontations between bears and people. There are many applications for exemption from the rules on fishing and wildlife management, especially in connection with research projects. The Governor verifies compliance with the conditions for such exemptions. Another important element of wildlife management is monitoring the stocks of various species.

With regard to pollution, the Governor has carried out studies together with the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority on waste management routines in the settlements and made surveys of landfills, polluted areas and refuse on Svalbard. This has been followed up by instructions to the relevant bodies to carry out investigations, clean-up operations and improvements. Oil spills in Svalbard waters can have serious consequences for local birds and animals. Thus an effective oil pollution emergency response system adjusted to the difficult conditions on Svalbard is essential in order to contain any damage as much as possible. To this end a state-owned depot has been established in Longyearbyen, with oil recovery equipment owned by the Pollution Control Authority. The Governor is responsible for the equipment and has established an alarm system for notification and mobilization. In summer 1998 a survey of pollution in central fjord areas on Spitsbergen was started. The survey will take three to four years and will focus on the Isfjord and the Kongsfjord, where the largest settlements are located.

In the experience of the Governor's office information is one of the most important strategic measures for preventing environmental crime. Thus high priority is given to information measures, including brochures in which cultural history perspectives and contexts are emphasized. In cooperation with the Directorate for Cultural Heritage a monitoring system has been devised and installed on a number of cultural heritage sites that are vulnerable to wear and tear so that developments can be followed and remedial measures implemented. There are a number of buildings worthy of preservation both within and outside the settlements on Svalbard. Preserving the architectural heritage is one of the Governor's main responsibilities, and the office has drawn up a conservation plan for man-made and industrial cultural remains for Longyearbyen and the surrounding area and for Ny-Ålesund. These plans, together with the land-use plans, will ensure that relics from industrial history will continue to be an essential part of the cultural environment.

5.4.4 Travel and tourism duties

Tourism has grown substantially during the 1990s, and the Governor has devoted increasing resources to this sector during this period. The Governor's duties include dealing with matters under the regulations concerning tourism and other travel on Svalbard (the tourist regulations), notification of excursions and sailing plans, registration of visitors, applications for excursions to protected areas, etc.

Visitors to Svalbard come either on their own or as part of a more or less organized group. Although most of them have kept to the west and northwest of Spitsbergen, the remoter parts of Svalbard are becoming an attraction. These parts of the archipelago are fairly inaccessible, and in some cases weather and ice conditions represent a safety risk. This applies for example to Hinlopenstretet.

The increase in visitors and traffic has had environmental effects such as noise, wear and tear on vegetation, soil and cultural remains, and disturbance of wildlife. In some places this has led to conflicts of interests between tourism and other activities such as research. It is a challenge for the Governor to prevent such conflicts from arising.

The Governor attaches importance to contact and communication with the tourist agencies. These are Svalbard Reiselivsråd (the Svalbard tourist board) and various travel agents, and much of the information material prepared by the Governor's office is directed at this sector. The Governor also cooperates closely with Info-Svalbard, which in reality functions as a local tourist office. This cooperation functions smoothly, not least as regards the registration of tourists. See the description of Info-Svalbard in section 7.3.1 Svalbard Samfunnsdrift AS and its subsidiaries. Travel and tourism on Svalbard is described in more detail in section 7.4.4 Travel and tourism.

5.4.5 The information service

The major changes in both the composition of the population and the business sector on Svalbard have made it necessary to maintain an active information service that can meet the demands of the different target groups. Svalbard's unique status and administrative system have necessitated the strategic use of information in order to promote the understanding of Norwegian sovereignty over the archipelago and to prepare the ground for administrative decisions.

The growth in tourism has necessitated an increase in the resources allocated to information directed at both organized tourism and individual visitors. The notification requirements in the tourist regulations and the distinctive wilderness character of the archipelago mean that a great deal of resources are needed for tourists both before and after they arrive on Svalbard. The Governor also hosts many official visits to the islands every year, and briefs a growing number of groups of visitors on the administration of the archipelago. The Governor also provides some guidance on the applicable legislation to the population of Svalbard.

5.4.6 Contact with the foreign settlements

Relations with the foreign settlements are good. Both the Governor's presence and the information activities have been increased since the major air crash in 1996.

There is still a considerable need for general and specific information in Barentsburg. The Governor has offices hours once a month in Barentsburg and in recent years has held semi-annual meetings with the entire population of the town. These measures are important for ensuring that people have some knowledge of the Norwegian administration and the authority of the Governor. When emergencies have arisen, experience has shown that knowledge of the Svalbard Treaty, the administration system, and so on is essential to ensure the effectiveness and participation required to deal with the situation.

5.4.7 Other duties

The Governor has a number of duties in fields other than those mentioned above which are imposed on him by statute. Examples are the regulations on health conditions, the system for distribution of alcohol, child welfare, passenger ship control and fire regulations. The Governor is also involved in planning and implementation with respect to matters that are directly under the relevant mainland authorities, such as the veterinary authorities, the Labour Inspection Authority and the Motor Vehicle and Driving Licence Inspectorate. Transport service is often required in this connection. The Governor is also responsible for checking visitors to Svalbard, and may turn away those without funds or who cannot take care of their own safety. The Governor's coordinating functions with respect to central government activities on Svalbard are becoming increasingly demanding due to the rapid pace of change on the archipelago.

5.4.8 Organization and budget

Since 1997 the Governor's office has been organized in three departments: the police department, the environmental department and the administration department.

Table 5.1 Expansion of the staff at the office of the Governor of Svalbard in the period 1987-1998


1987 1992 1997 1998
Year-round employees 12 13 19,5 23
Summer employees 6 9 10 9
Temporary employees   1 6 4

The interpreter, information officer and legal adviser report directly to the Governor/Deputy Governor. Table 5.1 shows the increase in number of staff.

The current integrated organizational model has been shown to be both expedient and cost-effective. The coordinated use of transport, for example for the Governor's annual tour of inspection around the archipelago, is especially important because of the high cost involved in the use of helicopters and boats. The inspection service, which is expanded during the summer and based on two-man teams stationed in the field, is also based on an integrated model. The model also works well on an everyday basis, for example with regard to polar bear emergency preparedness and the killing of injured animals.

The Governor's administration building was destroyed by fire on 6 November 1995. In January 1998 the staff moved into a new building built on the remains of the old one.

Table 5.2 shows trends in the budgetary allocations to the Governor.

Table 5.2 Governor of Svalbard - Budget trends for selected years in the period 1987-2000 (in NOK 1000)


1987 1992 1997 1998 1999 20002)
Chap. 5 Governor of Svalbard 6.932 8.571 13.115 15.958 17.425 18.806
Chap. 5 Permitted overexpenditure     1.200      
Chap. 6 Governor's transport service 24.400 24.900 41.300 41.300 42.500 44.500
Chap. 9 Cultural heritage measures 1.356 2.014 2.510 2.650 2.050 2.050
Authorized by the Ministry of the Environment1)     1.700 1.700 1.500 950
Total budget 32 688 35 485 59 825 61 608 63 475 66 306

1) The figure is an estimate of the share of a larger appropriation earmarked for environmental purposes at the Governor's office.2) Figures in the proposed 2000 budget.

5.4.9 Future duties

As the Government's highest representative on Svalbard, the Governor's main duty is to promote realization of the objectives of Norwegian Svalbard policy. This principle underlies all activities carried out by the Governor.

Within this broad framework, the Governor has a number of specific challenges to deal with, such as:

  • the rapid pace of change on Svalbard and the consequences for the Governor in his or her capacity as initiator in local processes, host to visitors and source of information, and with regard to the coordination of central government activities on the archipelago;
  • the rapid expansion of tourism and the possible effects of increased traffic on the natural and cultural environments and for emergency preparedness;
  • the strategic use of information, both in everyday matters and in connection with extraordinary events;
  • close cooperation with the tourist industry and the local business sector;
  • the need for an increased presence in and cooperation with the foreign settlements;
  • planning and organizational development with a view to providing service and promoting cooperation, flexibility, and expertise.

The Governor is no longer the only official exercising central government authority on Svalbard, and in this sense he has less power than he used to have. During the 1990s new central government agencies, primarily directorates, have assumed a growing share of administrative responsibility as a consequence of the modernization and adaptation of legislation. In these areas the Governor serves as a first instance or as a facilitator for the work of the competent mainland authority. The Government considers this to be an expedient and cost-effective arrangement. It is not considered desirable that the relevant central government agencies should establish their own local representatives on Svalbard or that the archipelago should be governed by "remote control" from the mainland.

The expansion of local democracy in Longyearbyen, as recommended by the present report, will mean that the Governor's "municipal" duties and authority will be transferred to the local government in Longyearbyen. The case load in these areas will diminish, thus freeing parts of the Governor's office for other duties. There will still be a need, however, to maintain a certain amount of expertise in these areas as the Governor will continue to exercise these functions in the remaining settlements. The Governor may also be assigned new duties in relation to the local government of Longyearbyen.

Given the increase in activity during the 1990s, and especially the growth in tourism and research activity, there is a definite need to strengthen the presence of the authorities outside the settlements. Information activities also need to be intensified, especially to improve safety in connection with traffic on Svalbard and to prevent damage to cultural remains and the natural environment. Greater emphasis will need to be placed on the strategic use of information and procedures in matters in connection with the enforcement of the tourist regulations, such as the duty to report visits and the registration of visitors.

The Government regards the Governor as an important tool in the implementation of Norwegian Svalbard policy, not least in relation to foreign settlements and agents. Due to the increased traffic, the pressure on the environment and the greater risk of accidents, an effective central government administration at local level is becoming increasingly important. Although the Governor's local functions in Longyearbyen will change, he will continue to play an important role in managing state interests in Longyearbyen as well as in other parts of Svalbard.

5.5 The Commissioner of Mines

The Commissioner of Mines on Svalbard represents the state in relation to the petroleum and mining activities on Svalbard, and is the expert for the Ministry of Trade and Industry in matters relating to mining on Svalbard. The Commissioner has a staff of two.

The Commissioner has an office both in Longyearbyen and in Oslo. He spends large parts of the summer on Svalbard and also when otherwise required.

The Commissioner administers the Mining Code for Spitsbergen (Svalbard) laid down by Royal Decree of 7 August 1925 and supplementary provisions governing petroleum activities. The Commissioner's district includes Svalbard and Jan Mayen.

In accordance with the Mining Code the Commissioner issues search licences, reviews reports of discovery points and grants claims for approved discoveries. In the case of large-scale searches or when mining operations are begun, the Commissioner allocates the ground necessary for these activities. He also verifies that the specified duty to work in the claims is being carried out and makes recommendations to the Ministry of Trade and Industry as regards dispensations from this duty. The Commissioner also keeps records of reported discovery points, claims granted and work carried out in the claims. A more detailed account of the rules governing claims is to be found in section 7.5 The Mining Code and claims.

Inspections are carried out to verify that these activities are being carried out in accordance with the provisions of the Mining Code. The Commissioner cooperates with the Directorate of Labour Inspection on inspections of the mines on Svalbard. The Commissioner also provides advice, guidance and overviews of discoveries and deposits of minerals, etc., on Svalbard, and carries out, on his own or together with other public services, inspections and investigations of promising discoveries and deposits. An annual claims map is published showing the location of claims on Svalbard, cf. Fig. 7.3.

5.6 The taxation authorities on Svalbard

On the mainland the organization of the income tax administration is regulated by the Income Tax Act. This Act does not apply to Svalbard, and the Act relating to taxes on Svalbard of 1925 therefore had separate provisions governing the organization of the income tax administration.

The new Act, of 29 November 1996 No. 68, relating to taxes on Svalbard largely corresponds to the tax provisions on the mainland. In 1998 a tax office for Svalbard was established in Longyearbyen pursuant to the Act relating to taxes on Svalbard, and the Svalbard Tax Board, which had existed since 1925, was dissolved later the same year.

Although Svalbard has its own tax system, the tax administration there has a structure similar to that on the mainland. Svalbard has its own tax assessment board and tax appeal board. The functions of county tax office and county tax appeal board are filled by the equivalent agencies in Troms county. The highest authorities in the income tax administration are the Norwegian Directorate of Taxes and the Central Tax Board, whose competence is laid down in the Income Tax Act.

5.7 The Norwegian Air Traffic and Airport Management

Svalbard Airport, which was officially opened in 1975, is equipped with a 2 140 metre-long paved runway and is adequately instrumented. The airport has the same AFIS flight information service as short runway airstrips on the mainland.

Altogether there were about 4 495 takeoffs and landings at the airport in 1998, and a total of 59 463 passengers were served. Of these 58 301 were travelling to/from the mainland and 1 162 to/from other countries.

In 1997 the Norwegian Air Traffic and Airport Management completed its work on a plan for Svalbard Airport. The airport plan lays down guidelines for the long-term development of infrastructure at the airport and will form the basis for land-use plans in the area. In addition the Ministry of Transport and Communications has decided that a restriction plan is to be drawn up for the airport pursuant to section 7-13 of the Aviation Act. In connection with the current work on the land-use plan for the Longyearbyen area, both the area plan and the restriction plan will be available to the public in 1999. A revised map of noise zones for the airport will also be drawn up.

The existing passenger terminal at Svalbard Airport was built as a temporary solution to the problem of increasing traffic, and does not meet current fire regulations or international safety regulations for aviation facilities. The level of service of the building is also below the Air Traffic and Airport Management minimum standard for the area used by the public in such buildings. The Air Traffic and Airport Management has therefore advocated that a new passenger terminal with air traffic and ground service facilities should be built at the airport. The planning and costing of a new building was begun in 1997, but no date has been set for the completion of the terminal.

In addition to Svalbard Airport there are two smaller airfields on Svalbard which are not open to public traffic: one in Svea and one in Ny-Ålesund. These are inspected at regular intervals by representatives of the Norwegian Air Traffic and Airport Management, which verifies that they comply with the conditions laid down in air traffic legislation. There are also two helicopter ports, at Heerodden and Finneset, which are not open to general traffic and are licensed pursuant to the Aviation Act.

Most of the air traffic to and from Ny-Ålesund and Svea is scheduled flights. According to present plans, all passenger traffic to and from these airports will be handled together with the other passenger traffic by the new passenger terminal at Svalbard Airport. Today this traffic is handled in premises rented by the transport company.

In 1996 a comprehensive dislocation of the runway was undertaken at Ny-Ålesund on instructions from the Civil Aviation Authority. In the same year the Norwegian Air Traffic and Airport Management reviewed the possibility of building an airway beacon with a range-finder to improve the accessibility of the airport in bad weather, but so far this has not been done.

5.8 The Directorate of Public Construction and Property

The Directorate of Public Construction and Property administers most of the state-owned properties in Longyearbyen. These include commercial buildings, institutions and 125 housing units. At Bjørnøya and Hopen the Directorate administers the meteorological stations. Altogether the Directorate administers a total of 29 000 m2 of buildings on Svalbard, including Bjørnøya and Hopen. The operating costs of the hospital and school are covered by appropriations from the government budget, while the other buildings and housing are covered by the Svalbard budget. About nine man-years at the Directorate are devoted to activities on Svalbard and there are no plans for any major changes in the organizational structure.

The Directorate took over the administration of state property on Svalbard in 1976-78 and the old hospital in 1981. The Directorate has also been responsible for a number of new buildings and rebuilding and rehabilitation projects. In 1995 the administration building housing the Governor's offices was destroyed by fire. Rebuilding was begun immediately, and the staff were able to move into the new building in January 1998. During the construction period it became clear that the Governor's office would need the whole building, and the Commissioner of Mines therefore established his office in the post office and bank building in Longyearbyen.

Other important construction projects since 1986 have been the Atmosfærekjemisk forsknings-stasjon (research station for atmospheric chemistry) in Ny-Ålesund, a new hospital in Longyearbyen, the conversion of the swimming pool at Longyearbyen school into classrooms for six-year-olds and a warehouse for the Pollution Control Authority and the Governor. In 1999 a new research station at Ny-Ålesund and a new station for measuring air pollution on Zeppelinfjellet at Ny-Ålesund were completed. The Directorate's role as administrator of state-owned housing on Svalbard is also dealt with in section 11.2.2 Housing administration in the future.

5.9 The Norwegian Polar Institute

5.9.1 Organization and development

The Norwegian Polar Institute goes back to 1906, when a Norwegian "state-sponsored" mapping and research expedition went to Svalbard. Such expeditions became an annual event and in 1928 they were institutionalized in the form of Norway's Svalbard and Arctic Research Survey, which changed its name to the Norwegian Polar Research Institute in 1948. At first the Institute's activities on Svalbard were only seasonal, but in 1968 it established a year-round research station in Ny-Ålesund and in 1992 a year-round office in Longyearbyen. In 1993 the Storting decided the Institute should establish a department on Svalbard, and from 1994 15 new positions were created and a director was appointed.

The Polar Institute was previously subordinate to the Ministry of Industry, but since 1979 it has been one of the subordinate agencies of the Ministry of the Environment. In 1998 the Institute was moved from Oslo to Tromsø, where it was housed in the newly built Polar Environment Centre.

5.9.2 Duties


The Polar Institute's mandate is to advise the environmental protection administration on Svalbard on technical and strategic matters. This is done through research and monitoring activities that provide the administration with reliable and up-to-date knowledge, and through advice on management issues and studies. The Institute is the main adviser on technical matters for the department of environmental affairs at the Governor's office.

Research and monitoring

The Polar Institute is the main institute for Norwegian polar research and its mandate is to develop strategies and plans, coordinate activities and make research infrastructure available to Norwegian polar research, in close cooperation with the Research Council of Norway. The Institute represents Norway in a number of international research fora.

The main focus of the Institute's research activities is on climate change, biological diversity and pollution. The Institute runs climate-related research projects in the fields of glaciology, ocean-ography, meteorology, quaternary geology and marine geology. In addition to providing new knowledge on climate change, the Institute monitors a number of key climate variables. Research on and monitoring of ecosystems, species and stocks are an essential part of the conservation of biological diversity, and the Institute's goal is to obtain necessary and sufficient knowledge for the sound management of Svalbard's wilderness. With regard to pollution on Svalbard and the surrounding waters, the Institute gives priority to research on and monitoring of persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals and radioactivity.


The Polar Institute has national responsibility for topographical surveys on land on Svalbard. This comprises the local geodetic point network, an up-to-date aerial photograph coverage and responsibility for the publication of official maps of the archipelago. The Institute is also responsible for state geological surveys on Svalbard, cf. section 10.2.2 Land mapping.

Research infrastructure

Research and surveying in the field on Svalbard require suitable equipment and logistics. The Polar Institute has built up infrastructure in Longyearbyen and Ny-Ålesund, both for its own research and for the sake of other Norwegian and international research and teaching activities. See section 8.4.5 Infrastructure for research and education for more details.

Lighthouse and beacon service

The Polar Affairs Institute is responsible for the lighthouse and beacon service on Svalbard (including Bjørnøya and Hopen). This includes the operation and maintenance of radio beacons, lights and navigation marks, which are carried out in connection with the operations of R/V Lance in the area, by smaller vessels and by helicopter.

Information and public education

Most of the Polar Institute's scientific and popular science publications are directed at institutions and people who are interested in the nature on Svalbard. The distribution and sale of popular science publications such as the brochure on polar bears, the manuals published by the Institute and "Place-names of Svalbard" have increased along with the growing stream of tourists and other visitors to the archipelago. One of the main objectives of the Institute is to increase public knowledge and understanding of the importance of the natural and cultural environment of the archipelago. The Institute thus intends to continue to give priority to this type of information.

In cooperation with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and the SINTEF Group, the Institute arranges annual courses concerning Svalbard (Svalbardkurset and Studie-tur Nord). Both of these courses have a high standard and are well attended by executive officers and decision-makers in the public and private sectors on Svalbard. These activities are considered of great value by the Institute in connection with their information and public education activities.

5.10 Longyearbyen School

A school was established on Svalbard in 1920, financed by Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani AS (Store Norske), which ran it on a voluntary basis. Until 1954 the local priest also taught at the school. In 1937 the school's status as a company school was established by law, and Store Norske was made formally responsible. As a consequence, the first school building was constructed and opened in 1938. In 1976 the state assumed responsibility for the school, which at that point was the only remaining company school in Norway. In 1978 the school was expanded to include upper secondary education, and since then it has cooperated closely with Store Norske and other local firms, which has made it possible for the school to offer practical education as well as the more academic.

For over 20 years the school has had a year-round programme for six-year-olds, consisting of 30 hours a week. In 1988 the educational programme for children in grades 1 to 3 was expanded, with an emphasis on stimulating creativity and developing social skills through personal growth and greater insight.

Today's school building was extended in 1971, and more recently a new extension for the upper secondary school has also been built. The building of Svalbard Hallen (Svalbard sports centre) has improved the gymnastics facilities, and more space has been freed and renovated for teaching staff and for six-year-olds.

The school currently has 180 pupils (1999-2000) and a teaching staff of about 30 full-time positions. The average annual cost for each pupil was NOK 70 000 in 1998. The school board is responsible to the Ministry of Education, Research and Church Affairs as represented by the National Education Office, Troms County.

Young people living on Svalbard have the right to upper secondary education in the county in which they or their parents last resided. The upper secondary school in Longyearbyen offers general studies and a limited selection of vocational programmes. The National Education Office, Troms County, has prepared a report on upper secondary education on Svalbard, in cooperation with the school and the board, which contains proposals for its future structure. Among the points discussed in the report were the responsibility for upper secondary education on Svalbard and the division of responsibility between state and county. As regards the number of programmes available, it was emphasized that in addition to general studies, a broader range of vocational programmes would be offered in cooperation with the local business community (apprenticeships, etc.). The report is being evaluated by the Ministry of Education, Research and Church Affairs. See section 14.5.2 The introduction of local democracy in Longyearbyen for details.

5.11 Svalbard Church

There has been a priest on Svalbard since 1920, but the present church in Longyearbyen was built in 1958.Today, in addition to the parish priest, there is also a catechist and a housekeeper. The parish is part of the diocese of Nord-Hålogaland. Most church activities take place in Longyearbyen, but the priest also serves the Russian and Polish settlements, Ny-Ålesund, Bjørnøya, Norwegians at hunting stations, etc. Since the beginning the church has functioned as a seaman's church, with an emphasis on creating a good milieu in the rather uniform local industrial community.

An important difference between Svalbard and the mainland is that general church legislation does not apply on Svalbard. There is thus a different organizational structure, for example, a separate Svalbard church council has been established instead of the usual parish council. The church council is an advisory body established on a voluntary basis and has little formal authority compared with a parish council, although it does put forward opinions in connection with the work on the budget. This means that the parish priest has more administrative duties than a mainland parish priest. Since the entry into force of the new Church Act of 1 January 1997, the authorities on Svalbard have conducted a study to determine whether the council system and organization of the church's activities should be changed in accordance with the principles laid down in the Act. This matter will being given further consideration.

The church's activities on Svalbard are entirely financed over the Svalbard budget. The Directorate of Public Construction and Property is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the church building. The Svalbard church council runs the social centre, which is used for social gatherings after the church service and other arrangements.

Although the local community has become more complex in recent years, conditions on Svalbard are still sufficiently different that the church's tasks and functions are different from those on the mainland. Since most of the people living on Svalbard work, services such as visiting institutions and the sick are not much in demand. The church cooperates closely with the school and hospital in Longyearbyen, and in this connection a group for bereaved people/self-help group has been set up. The church has shown itself to be an important resource in the event of disaster. This, especially in the last few years, has brought it closer to the population in the Russian communities. For more details, see section 14.5.2 The introduction of local democracy in Longyearbyen.

5.12 Longyearbyen Hospital

The hospital in Longyearbyen is owned and run by the state. Administratively it is directly under the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs. The hospital functions in the same way as a health centre does on the mainland, with acute ward and emergency functions.

Since its reorganization the hospital has 20 permanent positions, 18 of which are fixed-term contracts. The staff consists of three consultants, one of whom is head of department, a senior nurse, three nurses specialized in anaesthetics and three in surgery, an occupational health nurse, an office manager, a medical secretary, a secretary, a public health nurse/midwife, a physiotherapist, a dentist, a dental receptionist and two porters.

See section 11.1 Health services and section 14.5.2 The introduction of local democracy in Longyearbyen for more details.

5.13 Fixed-term contracts and other temporary service on Svalbard

In 1998 there were 107 government employees on Svalbard, most of them on fixed-term or other temporary contracts. Since the previous report to the Storting, the use of fixed-term contracts has been discussed several times, both in connection with the review of the arrangement itself as a form of appointment and in connection with the efforts to establish a common set of rules for government employees on Svalbard.

Fixed-term contracts are an exception on special grounds from the main rule in section 58A, concerning permanent employment, of the Working Environment Act. Section 3, subsection 2f, of the Public Servants Act provides a legal basis for fixed-term contracts in government employment. Pursuant to the regulations of 11 November 1983 appurtenant to the Public Servants Act, this applies to government positions on Svalbard (section 3, subsection 3e). The system of fixed-term contracts for government employees on Svalbard was made permanent by Royal Decree of 26 August 1988 No. 5.

There are a number of reasons for retaining the system of fixed-term contracts: the need for new ideas and a certain turnover, the need for insight into and contact with mainland conditions, the need for flexibility in personnel policy, and the fact that this improves recruitment. It has also been found that in practice it is easier for people to obtain leave from their mainland positions to fill fixed-term contracts.

When the system was made permanent in 1988 most of the institutions consulted, including all the services and agencies affected by the system, were in favour of retaining the possibility of using such contracts. The system was reviewed again in connection with the new management pay system that was being introduced for the higher levels of government administration. In accordance with the views of the consulted institutions, an internal working group at the Ministry of Labour and Government Administration proposed that the use of fixed-term contracts on Svalbard should be retained. This was followed up and the system was continued. In 1994 a proposal for common rules for fixed-term contracts on Svalbard was circulated for comment. In this document the question of retaining these contracts was not raised as an issue, since it was assumed that there was broad agreement on retaining the system.

It is the competent ministry that decides whether its subordinate agency may employ fixed-term contracts. The Commissioner of Mines is the only government agency that has no employees on fixed-term contracts. The grounds for employing staff in the postal and telephone services ceased to be valid when they were transformed into the companies Posten Norge BA and Telenor AS. Certain positions in some of the other government agencies have been made permanent in recent years, for example, the priest and at the school. However, the general rule is that employees of government agencies are on fixed-term contracts. The competent ministry also decides the terms of the contracts.

In 1992 the Governor of Svalbard was requested to head a local survey of government employment in practice and on the basis of this to propose common rules for employment in government positions on Svalbard, including rules for fixed-term contracts. These contracts have been for periods varying from three to eight years (including extension periods). The rules were unclear and the practice varied in connection with, among other things, extension periods and the waiting period before transfers to a new position in the same or another government agency, and it was felt that better coordination was desirable. All the government agencies on Svalbard were involved in the survey.

Another temporary form of appointment on Svalbard is a system whereby permanent employees at a government agency on the mainland take up temporary appointments on Svalbard. The positions are advertised internally and the employee is given leave from his or her permanent position. The Air Traffic and Airport Management employs this system and wishes to retain it.

The Government is of the view that fixed-term contracts and other forms of temporary appointment should continue to be used for government positions on Svalbard. The system will therefore be retained. The competent ministries are responsible for deciding whether fixed-term contracts are to be used in the subordinate agency. The subordinate agencies also need to review the various positions and decide whether there is a need for fixed-term contracts. The Government will encourage a more flexible arrangement here. Emphasis should be placed on whether a fixed-term contract is necessary and desirable in the context of the individual position.

When fixed-term contracts are used, the conditions should be as similar as possible for the various agencies, while at the same time meeting the needs of the individual agency. Common rules should therefore be laid down as a framework for fixed-term contracts. In cases where such contracts are being discontinued, the competent ministry should consider whether the economic benefits attached to the contract and justified by the system should be continued.

The duration of fixed-term contracts varies from agency to agency. A certain variation is acceptable, but given the developments in Longyearbyen it seems logical to extend the shortest contracts. The Governor's office generally employs two-year contracts that can be extended by one year, but in the last couple of years further one-year extensions have been granted in response to applications.

The various government agencies on Svalbard have fairly different rules governing for example free housing, removal expenses, free holidays, free use of cars, working hours and leisure time, and compassionate leave. The Ministry of Labour and Government Administration is preparing a set of common rules for these benefits.