The Mount Pitt Section of Norfolk Island National Park is divided into two sections - the conservation area (369 hectares) and the forestry area (124 hectares).
In October 2012, the Norfolk Island Government and Parks Australia agreed that most of the forestry area within the Norfolk Island National Park will be returned to native vegetation, opening the way to new opportunities for community recreation and tourism.
History of the forestry area
The forestry area was originally cleared for banana plantations during the 1930s but after the collapse of the banana industry, dense thickets of weeds, mainly African olive, took over. The area was included in the then Mount Pitt Reserve as an area reserved for forestry purposes and in 1955 was declared as a public reserve.
In 1984 the first management plan for the national park, provided for the expansion of Norfolk Island pine plantations into the weed dominated areas at a rate of four hectares per year. The plan also stated that as far as possible, timber sufficient to meet local needs should be grown outside the park.
In addition to pine plantation areas, the forestry area includes several small areas of remnant native vegetation. In 1994, these areas were surveyed and 'high nature conservation value' areas mapped and recommended for preservation (Davidson, Anderson and Evans 1994). The Norfolk Island National Park and Botanic Garden Management Plan 2008-2018, the current management plan, protects these areas from clearing and requires that weed management be undertaken in and around them.
Access to the forestry area by the community and visitors is limited, although it is used for commercial horse riding and 4WD touring. All activities, including forestry activities (but with the exception of bushwalking), require approval from the Director of National Parks.
Future of the forestry area
A series of reports over many decades raised questions about the economic viability of the forestry area. The reports also pointed to the need to more actively manage weeds to protect the entire national park. In 2011, Norfolk Island National Park and the Norfolk Island Government renewed discussions on how best to manage the forestry area. An independent report by forestry expert Dr Neil Byron found the forestry area had little economic value for the island and should be rehabilitated to provide opportunities for community recreation and tourism.
After 18 months of public consultation, the Norfolk Island Government and Parks Australia agreed that the best way forward, for the environment and the economy, was to gradually rehabilitate and transfer most of the forestry area to active management by the national park. The Norfolk Island Government will continue to retain responsibility for 25 per cent of the area, mostly pine plantation, to be actively managed for forestry.