Lord Howe Island
Lord Howe Island was Australia's first UN World Heritage Island, and is tightly administered. Properties are not offered for sale to 'outsiders', only 400 tourists are allowed to visit at any time, and the accomodation is carefully pitched at a moderate rate; no camping or hostels at the cheap end of the market, and no high-rise or luxury hotels.
Situated some 600 kilometres from the Australian mainland, the island is long and narrow (about 11 by two kilometres), and offers a wide variety of things to keep visitors entertained. Although it is quite a distance south of Brisbane, it has reasonable coral reefs, with good snorkling and diving. You can take boat trips around the island and out to Balls Pyramid, and incredibly steep high rock jutting up into the ocean. Most of the land area is permanent park reserve, with lots of birds and excellent walking trails.
Kentia palms are one of the major source of income, and are unique to this tiny island.
Geography and Botany
Lord Howe Island originated in volcanic explosions some seven million years ago, with impressive volcanic mountains dominating the view to the south. As the volcanic mass eroded, and the sea-level rose, the area was colonised by corals, and the island is now protected by a strong barrier reef.
Wind- and tide-born spores and seeds arrived from other land masses in the South Pacific, including New Zealand and Australia, and over time the plants and animals that survived evolved and adapted to their tiny home. Although small, the island has a range of habitats. Sheltered valleys harbour dense forests, the lowlands are home to thousands of thatch palms, the steep slopes have yet different species of palms, and the tops of the two major mountains, Mts Gower (875 metres) and Lidgbird (777 metres), are often shrouded in mist, with entirely different vegetation from the rest of the island; tree ferns, sedges, mosses.
Birds and Animals
The story of birds on Lord Howe is a sad one. Of the original fifteen types of land birds, nine are now extinct, directly as a result of settlement. The birds included:
On the positive side, the Woodhen is a conservation success story. In the late 1970's there were less than 30 birds in existance. A captive breeding colony was established in 1978 and releases of captive-bred birds into the wild was achieved by 1981. By 1984 the captive breeding centre was closed, since Woodhens were re-established on many parts of the island, and were breeding in the wild. An important part of this program was the eridication of feral pigs, responsible for devestation of the bird population.
- White Gallinule
- Golden Whistler
More recent arrivals to Lord Howe Island are
all able to colonise new habitats created by the clearing of the lowland forests.
- White terns
- Nankeen Kestrel
- Green-winged Pigeon
Situated as it is, far from other land, the island group plays host to hundreds of thousands of seabirds. Vast numbers of petrels and shearwaters breed on the island, and visitors can watch the muttonbirds (flesh-footed shearwater) fly in at dusk to their burrows in the local lowland forest. The islands also provide breeding grounds for terns, tropicbirds and boobies.
Facilities and information sites
Visitors to the island will find a wide range of facilities to help them enjoy all that Lord Howe has to offer:
- Clearly marked walking trails
- Picnic areas with barbeque facilities
- A Visitors Centre, free of charge
- A weekly slide show about the island
- A range of publications, available from the Visitors Centre
- The Island Museum
- Radio Lord Howe
- Yacht moorings, with showers and toilets provided near the jetty
Initially the island was administered by a Board of Control, set up in 1913. This was followed by the Lord Howe Island Board, brought into being by an Act of Parliament in 1953. This Board is responsible for the care, control and management of the entire island group, and is responsible for major projects such as the airport, hospital, power, and the permanent park preserve. This latter is of special importance, with an emphasis on the environmental management of the island, controlling weeds, feral animals, reforestation, and promoting awareness of the island's unique ecology.