The majority of Lord Howe Island has been closed to non-essential visitors due to the increased risk of myrtle rust, a disease-causing fungus.
The Lord Howe Island Board announced via social media that the Permanent Park Preserve, which covers about 70 per cent of the island and was created to preserve its native flora and fauna, is temporarily closed and cannot be accessed via recognised access points, bush tracks, or boat.
The popular tourist destination located in the Pacific is home to rare and threatened plants and animals, meaning authorities can take drastic measures to preserve the ecosystem.
“The rust has the potential to change the way our mountains and forest looks, it may alter food webs and ecology, and potentially affect world heritage values,” a board statement to residents said.
The closure has caused disruption to scheduled walks and activities for groups already on the island.
“There are about three or four groups already on the island in the middle of all the walks and the shutdown means they can‘t do their walks and all their schedules are disrupted,” Cafe operator and treasurer of the local tourism association Stephen Sia told the ABC.
“It’s a busy time of the year leading up to Easter and there have been requests for refunds and all sorts of compensation.”
Myrtle rust, discovered on the island on February 3, has the potential to alter the ecology and affect the world heritage values of the island.
Infected sites have been identified in three additional locations, and necessary measures are being taken to manage this ecological threat.
Myrtle rust experts from the NSW Department of Planning and Environment and Department of Primary Industries will hold an information session on the island on Thursday, March 16.
In recent years the island has been plagued by rats, prompting a $16 million scheme from the government to eradicate the pests.