One of Australia’s most exclusive holiday destinations has been partially closed to non-essential visitors as it fights an invasion of myrtle rust spore.
The majority of world heritage-listed Lord Howe Island, which is located in the Tasman sea about 700km northeast of Sydney, has been temporarily shut down due to the escalating risk of the highly transferable airborne fungus.
The closure, announced by the Lord Howe Island Board on Wednesday, is likely to last until the outbreak is controlled.
“Effective immediately, the LHI Permanent Park Preserve (PPP) is temporarily closed to all non-essential visitors,” the board wrote on Facebook.
“This means that unfortunately the PPP, pictured here, cannot be accessed via recognised access points, bush tracks or boat.
“Due to the escalating risk of myrtle rust, this closure is being implemented to help limit the spread of highly transferable fungus spores.
“We thank all those affected – residents, tourists, researchers, and house guests – for your support while necessary care is taken to manage this ecological threat.”
Some Aussies expressed concern over having their bookings dashed by the closure, including one man who said plans for his 60th birthday had been devastated.
“I have asked 30 family and friends to join my wife and I for our 60th birthday at our favourite place in the world. This is three years in the making. We were to fly out on Wednesday,” he wrote. “To close without notice is devastating for me and my friends.”
What is myrtle rust fungus?
Since its discovery on the NSW Central Coast 12 years ago, the invasive myrtle fungus from South America, identified by its bright yellow spots, has spread across the Australian landscape and now flourishes in bushland reserves, backyards, commercial operations, nature strips and parklands.
With the exception of South Australia, it has infiltrated every state including Tasmania, as well as the Tiwi Islands in the Northern Territory.
According to the Invasive Species Council, myrtle rust could eventually universally “alter the composition and function of forest, woodland, heath and wetland ecosystems”.
It says the incursion “is about as bad as it can get for biosecurity in Australia”.
Authorities agree myrtle rust is now endemic and cannot be eradicated.
Known as a hidden paradise, Lord Howe Island features about a dozen white sand beaches, volcanic peaks, and coral reefs and is home to almost 400 residents.
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