The Lord Howe Island Group was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1982.
The Lord Howe Island Group was one of 15 World Heritage places included in the National Heritage List on 21 May 2007.
The Lord Howe Island Group - which comprises Lord Howe Island, Admiralty Islands, Mutton Bird Islands, Ball's Pyramid, and associated coral reefs and marine environments - has spectacular landscapes, including volcanic mountains, and diverse low-lying rainforests, palm forests and grasslands. There are a large number of species of native plants, of which many are endemic to Lord Howe Island, and colonies of endangered seabirds.
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Located 700 kilometres north-east of Sydney and covering an area of 1,463 km2, the Lord Howe Island Group comprises Lord Howe Island, Admiralty Islands, Mutton Bird Islands, Ball's Pyramid, and associated coral reefs and marine environments.
Description of place
Nearly seven million years ago geologic movement of the Lord Howe Rise (an underwater plateau) gave birth to a large shield volcano on its western edge. Over time the sea eroded 90 per cent of the original volcano, leaving the islands that today comprise the Lord Howe Island Group.
Lord Howe Island has a spectacular landscape with the volcanic mountains of Mount Gower (875 metres) and Mount Lidgbird (777 metres) towering above the sea. The central low-lying area provides a marked contrast to the
adjacent mountains and northern hills. There are 241 different species of native plants, of which 105 are endemic to Lord Howe Island. Most of the island is dominated by rainforests and palm forest. Grasslands occur on the more exposed areas of Lord Howe Island and on the offshore islands. Most of the main island and all of the offshore islands are included in the Lord Howe Island Permanent Park Preserve.
The islands support extensive colonies of nesting seabirds, and at least 168 bird species have been recorded either living on, or visiting, the islands. A number of these are rare or endangered. The endangered woodhen is one of the world's rarest bird species. During the 20th century the population of woodhens experienced a significant decline in numbers as a result of hunting by humans, habitat loss and disturbance by feral animals. Over the last few years a successful captive breeding program and other conservation measures have increased the numbers of these small flightless birds to around 220.
The islands are one of two known breeding areas for the providence petrel, a species that is also found nesting on Phillip Island, near Norfolk Island. The Lord Howe Island Group contains what is probably the largest breeding concentration in the world of the red-tailed tropicbird, and the most southerly breeding colony of the masked booby. The waters surrounding Lord Howe Island provide an unusual mixture of temperate and tropical organisms. The reef is the southern-most coral reef in the world and provides a rare example of the transition between coral and algal reefs. A marine national park was declared by the State of New South Wales in 1999 to increase protection of the marine environment. A Commonwealth Marine Reserve was declared in 2002, covering most of the World Heritage property and extending around Lord Howe Island and Ball's Pyramid from three to 12 nautical miles.
It is believed Europeans discovered Lord Howe Island when it was sighted from the British colonial naval vessel HMS Supply in 1788, en route from Sydney to the penal colony on Norfolk Island. The first landing was made two months later on the return voyage to Sydney.
By the 1830s there was a small permanent settlement in the lowland area of the main island. The settlers made a living by hunting and fishing, and by growing vegetables, fruit and meat for trade with passing ships. Pigs and goats, which were introduced to Lord Howe Island for food, later went wild and caused extensive vegetation and habitat changes, threatening populations of native species. Rats arrived on the island in 1918 from a wrecked ship, and have since been responsible for the extinction of five bird species. Over the last decade there have been intensive efforts to control these feral animals. Wild pigs, cats and goats have been successfully eradicated. The Lord Howe Island Board has also embarked on an ambitious weed eradication strategy and is in the early stages of planning for a rodent eradication programme subject to necessary licensing approvals and field trials.
Management of the Lord Howe Island Group
Lord Howe Island and its associated islands are under the care, control and management of the Lord Howe Island Board. When carrying out its functions, the Board is required to have particular regard to the World Heritage status of the area and to conserve those values for which the area was inscribed on the list.
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.
Justification for Criteria
Criterion (vii) contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance:
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) contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of Outstanding Universal Value from the point of view of science or conservation:
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.
Statement of integrity
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.
Requirements for protection and management
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.
The Lord Howe Island Group was inscribed on the World Heritage List by the World Heritage Committee at its 6th session in December 1982.
This Statement of Outstanding Universal Value was adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session in June-July 2012.
Official listing information
Visit the UNESCO web site for official listing information on the Lord Howe Island Group:
Management Plan for the Lord Howe Island Group
1981 Nomination document
The Lord Howe Island Group was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1982. The 1981 nomination document is available for download.
- Nomination of the Lord Howe Island Group by the Commonwealth of Australia for inclusion in the World Heritage List (PDF - 3.85 MB)
- Australian Heritage Database record for the Lord Howe Island Group
- Protected Planet Database - Lord Howe Island Group World Heritage Site
- Flora of Australia online: Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands
- Spatial data (in an ESRI shapefile format) for all of Australia’s World Heritage properties is held by the Department. This information is available to the public via the Department's Information and data - Databases and applications.
The Lord Howe Island Board contact address is:
Lord Howe Island Group WHA Executive Officer
c/- PO Box 5
Lord Howe Island NSW 2898