Family's $30,000 trip to Lord Howe Island 'ruined' by biosecurity crisis

Lord Howe Island's large World Heritage park is closed due to a fungal outbreak, but as one family found out travel refunds are not forthcoming.

The closure of Lord Howe Island's World Heritage park due to a fungal outbreak has ruined one family's $30,000 holiday plans, a woman has told Yahoo News.

Permanent Park Preserve (PPP), making up 75 per cent of the island, was closed temporarily last week due to a biosecurity crisis, with myrtle rust threatening to devastate Lord Howe's ecosystem. The airborne fungus kills plants and is known to easily obliterate entire plant species.

On the left, a woman stands on a rock overlooking the idyllic ocean view on Lord Howe Island, while right, bushwalkers ascend a hill.
Lord Howe Island is an exclusive holiday destination 600km east of Port Macquarie, with only 400 tourists granted access to the island at one time. Source: Instagram / Lord Howe Island

In response, all "non-essential visitors" were banned from the park, leaving many pre-paid travellers confused by what this meant for their holiday, including one Sydney family who have paid $30,000 to visit the island over the upcoming Easter break.

Travellers can still visit the island, but for the time being can not enter the park. The Lord Howe Island Board is hopeful of reopening the park soon and will assess the situation weekly.

Family's 'special' island holiday ruined

A Sydney mum, who asked to remain anonymous, said she was "disappointed" that a refund or rescheduling option was not offered by her travel agent now the family of six could no longer enjoy the "full experience" of the holiday. The family are guttered they will be unable to go bushwalking through the PPP.

“For a family who are keen bushwalkers, its one of the things we wanted to do. Your children get to that age, they can take on the walk and it's something we can share together," she told Yahoo News Australia.

She said in light of the biosecurity crisis, the entire trip the family arranged 15 months in advance was now no longer available. After raising her concern to her travel agency, she was told she would incur a 100 per cent fee if she cancelled the trip, and said she was staggered by the fact she wasn't given an alternative option in light of the unprecedented issue.

"I know it's a first-world problem and I'm grateful," she said, before adding, "I begrudge not being given some sort of alternative".

The mother explained her frustrations are fuelled by her hope to make the most of the dwindling family time she has has left with her children, believing this could be the last "golden time" to connect as a family before life gets in the way.

Lord Howe Island tourism head responds

First and foremost, Trina Shepherd, the Executive Officer of Tourism for Lord Howe Island, wanted to make it clear to Yahoo News it is still "business as usual" on the island despite the Myrtle Rust outbreak.

With widespread media coverage misreporting that all tourists are banned from the island, she explained this was exacerbating the issue for prospective visitors and business owners alike.

"It's so wrong and we need to correct this [misinformation]. It's so damaging for the poor operators on the island," she explained.

She continued by clarifying that despite the PPP being closed, only five per cent of this area is accessible during any other time. With all accomodation, hospitality venues and water sport excursions available, she believes there is no reason to cancel any upcoming trips.

"The only people that will possibly be disappointed are those specifically wanting to go on the walking trails, and not interested in doing anything else. There's very few people who don't enjoy other aspects of the island," she said.

Do you have a story tip? Email:

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter and download the Yahoo News app from the App Store or Google Play.