A NSW Government website
20 Mar 2023

Lord Howe Island Board
Myrtle Rust Response

I am writing in relation to the response to the discovery of Myrtle Rust on Lord Howe Island and, in particular, to provide a brief update on the temporary closure of the PPP.

Firstly, thank you to everyone on the island who is assisting efforts to contain and eradicate Myrtle Rust.  Your contribution and support is important and greatly appreciated.

Secondly, in relation to the PPP, I have asked the Board administration to prepare by the end of this week (i.e. by 24 March) a protocol outlining the biosecurity and other hygiene measures that can be applied to support a re-opening of the PPP. 

However, I want to stress that a final decision on the timing of any re-opening will depend on scientific advice, taking into account the results of our ongoing work to assess the extent of any Myrtle Rust on the island. 

In short, re-opening will occur as soon as possible provided we are confident, based on the best advice, that access can be managed in a manner that poses no material risk to the world heritage values of the PPP. 

The Board is conscious of the impact of the closure on tourism.  We want to minimise that impact.  In this respect, we are conscious that the spread of Myrtle Rust into the PPP would have significant impacts on the world heritage values of the island.  The establishment of Myrtle Rust in the PPP would thus be very damaging for the tourism industry, as well as the ecology of Lord Howe.

Accordingly, the decision to close the PPP, after the detection of additional Myrtle Rust locations in close proximity to the boundary of PPP, was made to protect both the ecology of the island and its tourism-based economy.   While not the only factor in the decision, I note there were reports from residents indicating that quarantine measures were not being complied with and requesting that the PPP be shut. 

The impact of Myrtle Rust on the mainland has been severe.  5 plant species have been listed as critically endangered as a result of Myrtle Rust and I am advised another 16 species are on an extinction trajectory.  This provides an insight into the potential impact on Lord Howe Island.

Myrtle Rust can also spread as a result of wind - the only way to address this risk is to find and treat all Myrtle Rust locations as rapidly and thoroughly as possible.  Measures to do this have been the focus of the response to date, and remain in place, and will be funded in part by the Environment and Heritage Group rather than the Lord Howe Island Board.

The Board, your community and people on the mainland are working hard to promote the range of tourist experiences on the island while this matter is resolved.   This will continue for as long as is necessary. An update on the timetable for re-opening will be provided within a week.

Atticus Fleming            
Lord Howe Island Board