What’s happening on Heard and McDonald Islands

The Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands (HIMI) was listed on the Register of the National Estate in 1983 and inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1997. The Heard Island Wilderness Reserve Management Plan (1996), made under the Territory’s Environment Protection and Management Ordinance 1987, is the primary instrument for guiding activities in the Territory.

The management plan addresses human pressures on the environment, which arise from government-run research expeditions and non-governmental visits to Heard Island and the surrounding waters. Of greatest concern is the potential introduction of non-native species, which would compromise HIMI’s unique introduction-free status.

In early 2001 a proposal was made to declare a Commonwealth Reserve in the HIMI region, under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) (see Marine Reserve proposed for Heard Island in Issue 2). The proposed reserve will significantly extend the marine component beyond the current 12 nautical mile boundary, and is intended to provide increased protection of the marine environment and HIMI ecosystems overall. After significant stakeholder consultation over the past 12 months a revised proposal for the new reserve is expected to be available for public comment in the coming months prior to the reserve’s declaration.

A management plan for the new reserve will be developed following the reserve’s declaration. The required new management plan would provide an opportunity to address changes since the current plan, such as HIMI’s World Heritage listing, new research findings, and management requirements arising from EPBC Act.

Ewan McIvor
Environmental Management and Audit Unit,
Australian Antarctic Division