Key Points:

NORFOLK ISLAND - The New Zealand man accused of murdering Sydney woman Janelle Patton on Norfolk Island has pleaded not guilty to the charge in the territory's Supreme Court.

Glenn McNeill, of Nelson, entered the plea at the start of his trial today.

Now aged 29, McNeill was working as a chef on the island when Ms Patton died on March 31, 2002.

A jury has not yet been sworn in and the court has been closed to members of the public and to the media during legal argument, which is expected to last two days.

The Chief Justice of Norfolk Island, Mark Weinberg, regretted ordering the closure of the court, but said it was necessary in the interests of justice.

He noted the "very unusual and exceptional circumstances of this case" and said he could not risk the possibility that someone listening to proceedings could say something about them to a potential member of the jury.

"Given the circumstances on the island, the fact that virtually everybody knows everybody... there would be a risk that a potential member of the jury might hear something that they ought not to hear," Chief Justice Weinberg said.

McNeill's partner and parents were among members of the public who had turned up to see the case today.

Ms Patton's family is also on the island, but was not present at court this morning.