Lord Howe Island leads the world in best environmental practices meaning a visit to this breathtakingly beautiful dot in the South Pacific is like no other place.
Story By Kirsty McKenzie
“Welcome to the last paradise,” Lord Howe Islanders say in total seriousness, and indeed it’s hard to argue with them. Flying to this World Heritage-listed island, an 11-kilometre-long dot in the South Pacific 700km north-east of Sydney, the first land sighted is Ball’s Pyramid, a 550-metre spearhead of sheer basalt cliffs, best known as a diver’s heaven and for the small colony of stick insects, previously thought to be extinct, discovered there in 2001. A few minutes and 26km further to the north is the island proper with the cloud-shrouded twin peaks of Mt Lidgbird (777m) and Mt Gower (875m) and the calm waters of the lagoon protecting the world’s southernmost reef, 90 coral species and 500 species of fish. And then there’s the overwhelming sense of being surrounded by green, from paddocks of lush pasture to the carefully mown roadside verges and the natural forests, where more than 100 endemic plants, including the kentia palm, grow.
But Lord Howe is not just physically beautiful. Its 370 residents also enjoy the kind of lifestyle that in itself should be nominated for World Heritage listing as a rare and diminishing resource. Visitors on Lord Howe are limited to 400, there are only 17 choices of accommodation and all are family-run. Bicycle is the main method of transport and the limited cars – you have to take one off the road before you can bring a new one on – have a speed limit of 25kph. No one locks their doors, there are no pubs on the island and night-life consists of a quiet dinner at a resort or a fish fry-up at the bowling club. Just about everything, from the drinks you help yourself to at the resort bars, to golf clubs and balls you hire for the nine-hole course and snorkelling gear at the beach, operates on an honesty system – put your money in the box and someone collects it later.
Swimming, fishing, snorkelling, diving, bushwalking and birdwatching are the main activities, unless you count the twice-daily launch of the weather balloon from the meteorological station where visitors are welcome. To buy property on the island you have to be a local – that is, born there or lived there for 10 consecutive years. The locals take their role as the custodians of this lifestyle seriously. Apart from the usual council duties of maintaining the airport, power station, fire tender, SES, hospital, waste recycling, parks and reserves and keeping firewood stacked beside all the barbecues, the Lord Howe Island Board, comprising four islanders elected for three-year terms, regulates all tourism and development on the island.
This story excerpt is from Issue #56
Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2008