A remarkable example of isolated oceanic islands, born of volcanic activity more than 2,000 m under the sea, these islands boast a spectacular topography and are home to numerous endemic species, especially birds.
Lord Howe Island
© Tourism Australia
Outstanding Universal Value
The Lord Howe Island Group is an outstanding example of oceanic islands of volcanic origin containing a unique biota of plants and animals, as well as the world’s most southerly true coral reef. It is an area of spectacular and scenic landscapes encapsulated within a small land area, and provides important breeding grounds for colonies of seabirds as well as significant natural habitat for the conservation of threatened species. Iconic species include endemics such as the flightless Lord Howe Woodhen (Gallirallis sylvestris), once regarded as one of the rarest birds in the world, and the Lord Howe Island Phasmid (Dryococelus australis), the world’s largest stick insect that was feared extinct until its rediscovery on Balls Pyramid.
About 75% of the terrestrial part of the property is managed as a Permanent Park Preserve, consisting of the northern and southern mountains of Lord Howe Island itself, plus the Admiralty Islands, Mutton Bird Islands, Balls Pyramid and surrounding islets. The property is located in the Tasman Sea, approximately 570 kilometres east of Port Macquarie. The entire property including the marine area and associated coral reefs covers 146,300 hectares, with the terrestrial area covering approximately 1,540 hectares.
Criterion (vii): The Lord Howe Island Group is grandiose in its topographic relief and has an exceptional diversity of spectacular and scenic landscapes within a small area, including sheer mountain slopes, a broad arc of hills enclosing the lagoon and Balls Pyramid rising abruptly from the ocean. It is considered to be an outstanding example of an island system developed from submarine volcanic activity and demonstrates the nearly complete stage in the destruction of a large shield volcano. Having the most southerly coral reef in the world, it demonstrates a rare example of a zone of transition between algal and coral reefs. Many species are at their ecological limits, endemism is high, and unique assemblages of temperate and tropical forms cohabit.
The islands support extensive colonies of nesting seabirds, making them significant over a wide oceanic region. They are the only major breeding locality for the Providence Petrel (Pterodroma solandri), and contain one of the world’s largest breeding concentrations of Red-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon rubricauda).
Criterion (x): The Lord Howe Island Group is an outstanding example of the development of a characteristic insular biota that has adapted to the island environment through speciation. A significant number of endemic species or subspecies of plants and animals have evolved in a very limited area. The diversity of landscapes and biota and the high number of threatened and endemic species make these islands an outstanding example of independent evolutionary processes.
Lord Howe Island supports a number of endangered endemic species or subspecies of plants and animals, for example the Lord Howe Woodhen, which at time of inscription was considered one of the world’s rarest birds. While sadly a number of endemic species disappeared with the arrival of people and their accompanying species, the Lord Howe Island Phasmid, the largest stick insect in the world, still exists on Balls Pyramid. The islands are an outstanding example of an oceanic island group with a diverse range of ecosystems and species that have been subject to human influences for a relatively limited period.
The boundary of the property includes all areas that are essential for maintaining the ecosystems and beauty of the property. It includes all of the above water remains of the ancient shield volcano and surrounding reefs and a substantial proportion of the Lord Howe Island and Balls Pyramid seamounts. The island component of the property is largely Permanent Park Preserve (PPP) and the surrounding waters are Marine Parks. The land area not included in the PPP is managed to ensure that the property’s values are maintained. The inscribed property would be strengthened by the inclusion of the entire Commonwealth Marine Park.
At time of inscription concern was raised with respect to a proposal to construct four telecommunications masts without thorough assessment by way of an Environmental Impact Statement. These were then built, although today no longer exist. Other potential threats to the integrity of the property include development pressures, introduced plants and animals and visitor / tourism pressures. Since inscription, a programme improving the conservation status of the Lord Howe Woodhen, and the successful eradication of feral pigs, cats and almost eradication of goats has contributed significantly to the enhancement of World Heritage values beyond their status at listing.
Protection and management requirements
The property is subject to a comprehensive protection, management and monitoring regime which is supported by adequate human and financial resources.
All World Heritage properties in Australia are ‘matters of national environmental significance’ protected and managed under national legislation, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. This Act is the statutory instrument for implementing Australia’s obligations under a number of multilateral environmental agreements including the World Heritage Convention. By law, any action that has, will have or is likely to have a significant impact on the World Heritage values of a World Heritage property must be referred to the responsible Minister for consideration. Substantial penalties apply for taking such an action without approval. Once a heritage place is listed, the Act provides for the preparation of management plans which set out the significant heritage aspects of the place and how the values of the site will be managed.
Importantly, this Act also aims to protect matters of national environmental significance, such as World Heritage properties, from impacts even if they originate outside the property or if the values of the property are mobile (as in fauna). It thus forms an additional layer of protection designed to protect values of World Heritage properties from external impacts.
In 2007 the Lord Howe Island Group was added to the National Heritage List in recognition of its national heritage significance.
On-ground management of the terrestrial component of the property is by the Lord Howe Island Board under the statutory framework of the Lord Howe Island Local Environment Plan (2010), which emphasises World Heritage values. Planning for the Permanent Park Preserve is the responsibility of the New South Wales Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water. Management of the marine areas (both State and Commonwealth waters) is the responsibility of the New South Wales Marine Park Authority.
Key threats requiring ongoing attention include fishing, tourism, invasive animals, plants and pathogens, and anthropogenic climate change. Visitor numbers are limited to control impacts and new Marine Park management and zoning plans are being developed for state and Commonwealth waters. Measures are being taken to prevent the introduction of new invasive plant species while significant resources are being directed towards the management and eradication of weeds. A proposal to eradicate introduced rodents is being developed.
Located in the South Pacific, 700 km north-east of Sydney, the property is included administratively in New South Wales. The preserve includes some 75% of the land area of Lord Howe Island and all of the offshore islands and rocks of significant size in the region. These are the Admiralty Group; Mutton Bird and Sail Rock; Blackburn (Rabbit) Island; Gower Island; and Ball's Pyramid, together with a number of small islands and rocks. The seaward boundary follows the mean high water mark and consequently excludes all littoral and marine areas. The entire island group has remarkable volcanic exposures not known elsewhere.
The main island of Lord Howe measures 10 km from north and south and is little more than 2 km in width. It roughly describes a crescent, enclosing a coral reef lagoon on its south-western side. The island's topography is dominated by the southerly Mount Gower and Mount Lidgbird. Only a narrow isthmus of lowland country in the north-central part of the island is habitable. The northern tip consists of steep hillsides culminating in extensive sea cliffs against the northern coastline.
Lord Howe Island is the eroded remnant of a large shield volcano which erupted from the sea floor intermittently for about 500,000 years in the late Miocene (6.5-7 million years ago). The island group represents the exposed peaks of a large volcanic seamount which is about 65 km long and 24 km wide and which rises from ocean depths of over 1,800 m. Four separate series of volcanic rocks are recognized on the main island group: tuffs, breccia and basalts, with widespread intrusion of basaltic dykes. The dominant landforming process on Lord Howe since the last of the volcanic eruptions has been marine erosion, which has cut and maintained major cliffs. Slope failure and accumulation of talus at the foot of some cliffs, especially in the south, have modified their original shape.
The island supports the southern truest coral reef in the world, which is of Pleistocene to Recent Age and differs considerably from more northerly warm water reefs. It is unique in being a transition between the algal and coral reef, due to fluctuations of hot and cold water around the island. A wide variety of vegetation types has been described for the islands, with the diversity corresponding with the range of habitats. Variable exposure to wind and penetration of salt spray appear to be the main determinants of vegetation occurrence, structure and floristic.
A population of the large forest bat occurs on the Island. No other indigenous native mammals are known. Introduced species, however, include mice, rats and goats.
There are at least 129 native and introduced bird species. Lord Howe is now the only known breeding ground for providence petrel. Fleshy-footed shearwater breeds in large numbers, with possibly half the world's population present seasonally. Other important species breeding within the preserve include kermadec petrel, black-winged petrel, wedge-tailed shearwater, little shearwater, white-bellied storm petrel, masked booby, and red-tailed tropic bird in greater concentrations than probably anywhere else in the world.
The earliest European discovery of Lord Howe appears to have been in 1788 by the British. A small permanent settlement was established in the 19th century, subsisting on trade with passing ships. There is no recognized evidence of prior Polynesian or Melanesian discovery or settlement. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC