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Norfolk Island Environment

Geography and climate

Norfolk Island was formed through volcanic activity in the Pacific Ocean, 1,676 kilometres northeast of Sydney. Most of the Island is a basalt plateau with an average elevation of 110 metres, with rough terrain. The highest point is Mount Bates, which is 319 metres above sea level. Much of the coastline is made up of 100 metre high cliffs.

Norfolk Island has a pleasant maritime climate with little seasonal change. The climate is sub‑tropical, with high humidity and moderate to high winds. Temperatures range from around 13°C to 25°C. The average rainfall is 1,302 mm per annum, with the driest months in November to January.

Flora and Fauna

Norfolk Island has unique and diverse animals and plants. The Island was formed by an oceanic volcano, is isolated, and has never been joined to a land mass. The plants are derived from the chance dispersal of seeds and spores over vast distances of ocean. Many of these evolved into unique and endemic island forms in isolation from other populations and subject to different evolutionary pressures. There are more than 40 plant species found only on Norfolk Island. The majority of the Island’s remnant habitat is found within the Norfolk Island National Park and Botanic Garden. The Norfolk Island pine is one of the Island’s best known symbols and is common across the Island. It only grows naturally on Norfolk Island and it can be up to 60 metres tall.

The most notable animals on Norfolk Island are land and sea birds. There are many iconic bird species, including some which are not found anywhere else in the world.

One such bird is the Norfolk Island Green Parrot, an endangered forest bird. Following conservation activities, its distribution has increased, from a small section of the National Park to right across the Island. Foods popular with the parrot include the seeds of the Norfolk Island Pine and the bright red fruits of the Norfolk Island Palm.

The endangered Norfolk Island Morepork almost became extinct in the 1980s when only a single owl remained. The population grew following a breeding intervention with the introduction of two New Zealand owls of a similar species. The owl is important for the ecosystem as it is a key predator.

Norfolk Island also has two vulnerable reptiles, the Lord Howe Island gecko and the Lord Howe Island skink, both of which exist only on nearby Phillip Island. Norfolk Island also has very diverse land snail fauna, comprising at least 40 endemic species. This consists of five critically endangered species, including the Campbell’s Helicarionid Land Snail, which was thought extinct but rediscovered in the National Park in 2020. In order to aid the longevity of Norfolk Island’s endemic species the Australian Government produces the Norfolk Island Region Threatened Species Recovery Plan.

Norfolk Island National Park and Botanic Garden

The Norfolk Island National Park and Botanic Garden were established in 1985. They are managed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Further information including the Norfolk Island National Park and Norfolk Island Botanic Garden Management Plan 2020 can be found on the Norfolk Island National Park page on the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s website.

Public Reserves

Norfolk Island has a number of Public Reserves. Anson Bay, Ball Bay, Bumbora, Cascade, Hundred Acres, Nepean, Point Ross, Selwyn and Two Chimneys reserves have environmental and heritage values that are protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and the Norfolk Island Heritage Act 2002 (NI). Public Reserves are managed by the Norfolk Island Regional Council under the Public Reserves Act 1997 (NI). Further information including Plans of Management can be found on the Public Reserves page on Norfolk Island Regional Council’s website, on the Norfolk Island Heritage Register 2002 and in the Australian Heritage Database. The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, Norfolk Island Regional Council and the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment work together to look after Public Reserves on Norfolk Island.

Norfolk Marine Park

The Norfolk Marine Park surrounds Norfolk Island and has temperate and tropical marine life. The Marine Park is managed by Parks Australia as part of the Temperate East Marine Parks Network. Further information including the Temperate East Network Management Plan can be found on the Norfolk Marine Park page on the Parks Australia website. The Norfolk Marine Park contains over 20 known shipwrecks protected under the Underwater Cultural Heritage Act 2018 including the HMS Sirius, the flagship of the First Fleet.

Biosecurity

The introduction of serious pests and diseases may impact on Norfolk Island’s unique biodiversity. Managing biosecurity risks is important not only for Norfolk Island’s natural environment, but also its tourism and agricultural sectors.

The Department is responsible for state-level biosecurity services on Norfolk Island. The Australian Government has funded a number of surveys to better understand and protect Norfolk Island’s biosecurity status. Further information is available on the Norfolk Island Pest and Disease Survey 2021-2023 project page.  

Argentine ants pose a serious threat to Norfolk Island’s environment. The Argentine ant eradication program is being delivered by the Norfolk Island Regional Council with funding from the Australian Government.

The Biosecurity Act 2015 is the primary legislation for managing the risks of harm from pests and diseases to Norfolk Island human, animal or plant health, the economy and the environment. The Act is administered by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment and further information is available on the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.