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Keeping Lord Howe Island’s sea cliffs for seabirds, not weeds

Helicopter weed sprayingA program to eradicate “ecosystem transformer” weeds from World Heritage listed Lord Howe Island is continuing strongly, with the Lord Howe Island Board assisted by funding from North Coast Local Land Services.

The exceptional natural beauty of Lord Howe Island, characterised by a diversity of distinct landscapes and wide variety of rare flora and fauna, has long been appreciated by the community.

Its unique qualities received worldwide recognition when it was included in the World Heritage list in December 1992.

Infestations of target weeds, including Weeds of National Significance, are trending downwards by 80 to 90% due to repeat grid search efforts across the island over the past decade. The often rough terrain being targeted has necessitated an innovative approach to weed control – the use of a helicopter with a lance apparatus.

Lord Howe Island is mostly surrounded by cliff lines which pose a challenge when it comes to managing weeds in the ‘vertical environment’. The helicopter lance spray apparatus has provided a breakthrough as it enables simultaneous surveillance and targeted treatment of weed plants. The apparatus was purpose built and tested by McDermott Aviation and carries a payload of 200 litres.

Heli-lance weed sprayingA second round of the helicopter lance spray apparatus program was successfully completed in recently with support by North Coast Local Land Services with funding from the National Landcare Programme and Catchment Action NSW.

This is only the second time in Australia that this equipment has been applied to target weeds on cliffs. Over 6.5 kilometres of cliff line were searched, treating Bitou Bush, Box Thorn and Ground Asparagus and Bridal Creeper.

The Lord Howe Island Board will continue to pursue further helicopter lance spray apparatus programs, which will in future be complemented with drone applications and where required, rope access until the weeds are fully depleted from cliff lines.

North Coast Local Land Services have also provided funding for helicopter winch operations on Lord Howe Island – scheduled for early 2017. Deployment of teams by winch access into the Southern Mountains increases the efficiency of search and treatment of Cherry Guava in hard to access remote terrain.

Media contact:

Lindy Brown, Team Leader Phone 0437 826 152

Photo captions 1 and 2:

The heli-lance spray apparatus allows accessibility to the largely inaccessible Lord Howe Island cliffs.