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Henderson Island

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Factors affecting the property in 2002*
  • Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
  • Management systems/ management plan
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2002
Requests approved: 1 (from 1990-1990)
Total amount approved : 8,000 USD
Missions to the property until 2002**
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2002

In November 2001, IUCN received several reports that the British authorities had given approval for a private consortium, the Wellesley Group, to develop tourism accommodation and airstrips on Pitcairn and Oeno Islands in the Pitcairn Islands, of which Henderson Island World Heritage site is a part (200 km northeast of Pitcairn).  Associated Press reported on 2 November 2001 that the British Governor of the Islands has asked the consortium to produce a detailed development and business plan, complete with independent socio-economic and environmental impact assessments.  Such a plan would have to consider the long-term provision of drinking water; detail improved links with the islands, including air strips; and outline small and environmentally sympathetic, high-quality tourist accommodation.  Environmental groups in Britain and New Zealand have raised concerns about the impact on the undisturbed environment and particularly the islands’ bird life. 


The Pitcairn Working Group (PWG) of the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum (OTCF) sent a letter to the World Heritage Centre on 7 November 2001 requesting that the proposed development, in the context of a lack of a functioning Management Plan for the site, be brought to the attention of the Committee.  Specifically, it noted that the development being proposed by the consortium included tourism facilities on Henderson Island.  The site lacked a Management Plan, despite a draft being produced for the UK Government by a team of experts following its inscription on the World Heritage List in 1988.  With no Management Plan, the correct mechanisms are not in place to evaluate the impact of this proposal on the island's World Heritage values, and to ensure that those values are safeguarded.


The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), a member of the OTCF, has informed IUCN that there have been several re-drafts of the development proposal, at one stage including all four Islands and a visitor centre/research station on Henderson.  RSPB notes that the Pitcairn Islanders are at crisis point and near to abandoning the Islands due to population decline.  Tourism development would provide employment and encourage those who have left to return.  The OTCF is supportive of this, however believes that development on the pristine, unpopulated islands of Henderson and Oeno is neither necessary nor desirable. 


In relation to visitation to the site, IUCN received reports that though a permit is required to visit Henderson Island, unofficial visits by small boat parties have been increasing.  There is no consistent on-site presence, nor any assessment of the extent to which visits have caused damage, nor whether any of the invasive species are encroaching further on the indigenous biota.  Further, the cutting of timber on Henderson continues for the production of wood carvings/souvenirs.  There appears to have been no assessment of the sustainability of this activity, though the demand for souvenirs increases in number and size of items.  There was always a concern among the Islanders that this activity would be curtailed by the World Heritage designation.


In early 2002, the 1995 draft of the Management Plan (prepared in 1992), was circulated by the OTCF to various NGOs and IUCN for comments.  The majority of feedback from NGOs pointed to the need to implement the Plan immediately, provision for later revision, rather than undertaking to produce another revised Plan and hence delaying implementation further.


The draft Plan and the collated comments were presented to the Overseas Territories Department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in February 2002.  The Department expressed interest in moving forward with the Management Plan and it has subsequently been agreed that a small team, headed by a member of the Pitcairn Working Group of the OTCF, would visit Pitcairn in July/August 2002 to negotiate amendments to the draft Plan with the Islanders. 


On 18 January 2002 the World Heritage Centre wrote to the State Party requesting information on the proposed developments as well as copies of the Management Plan for the site, for review by IUCN.  This report has yet to be received, however IUCN has received a copy of the 1995 (1992) draft management plan from the OTCF.  Some general IUCN comments on the plan are as follows:


The plan is an adequate basis for current management.  The primary step should be to implement it and then it should be subject to periodic review.  The plan requires more information with respect to: geomorphic description, delineation of the vegetation associations, and biotic changes and trends; Prevention of introduction of alien fauna and flora is critical and requires effective strategies; Development of Mio and Toa (tree species) as a sustainable resource is required.  The economic and social importance of the wood carving industry is considerable and should be supported. Development of sustainability in timber harvesting demands a long-term programme. It may be necessary to investigate the possibility of importing appropriate timber in the interim;  Tourism control and other visitor impact: it is important to assess the feasibility of establishing an on-site presence, that is, a very small enclave in a carefully selected site with very rigorous control over rubbish disposal, where two trained Pitcairn families might share the task of supervision, and also share in continuing monitoring of the environment.  On-site provision for visitors other than pathways should be totally prohibited.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2002
26 COM 21B.26
Henderson Island (United Kingdom)
The World Heritage Committee,

Recommends the State Party to implement, as a matter of urgency, the 1995 Management Plan for this site, with provision for its on-going improvement (based on input received and lessons learnt) and to provide a report on the situation by 1 February 2003 for examination at its 27th session in June/July 2003.

The Committee may wish to adopt the following decision:


“The Committee recommends the State Party to implement as a matter of urgency the 1995 Management Plan for this site, with provision for its on-going improvement based on input received and lessons learnt from its implementation and to provide a report on the situation by 1 February 2003.”

Report year: 2002
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Date of Inscription: 1988
Category: Natural
Criteria: (vii)(x)
Documents examined by the Committee
arrow_circle_right 26COM (2002)

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.