Construction of an airport & the development of a tourism industry in St Helena may have a profound effect on the environment & it's unique wildlife.
St Helena is a small island of 121 square kilometres 1,600 kilometres west of Angola in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean.
It is one of 14 United Kingdom Overseas Territories and has a human population of just 4,500. It has a rich natural and cultural history, but has suffered economically in the last few decades, meaning many 'Saints' have left the island to find work abroad.
In November 2011 the UK government confirmed it would finance the building of an airport on St Helena to improve access and facilitate inward investment and the development of a tourism industry on the island. Construction of this airport is now now complete and the first commercial flight from South Africa landed in October 2017.
The airport footprint includes areas used by St Helena's only remaining endemic bird, the St Helena plover or 'wirebird'.
As part of the project, the RSPB, in partnership with the St Helena Government and Saint Helena National Trust have established mitigation areas for wirebirds to nest and feed in. The airport will also have impacts on endemic invertebrate species.
As a result of the airport going ahead, significant upgrades of St Helena’s infrastructure have taken place, including a new road to the airport, and an expansion of the island's electricity generating capacity through the provision of renewable energy projects including wind turbines and a solar farm. Hotel, housing and tourism projects are also proposed in the Development Plan for the island, and the first of these developments are starting to be consented.
Alongside our partner - the St Helena National Trust - we're working to ensure that the airport and inward investment projects do not have adverse impacts on St Helena's unique and endangered endemic species. Although the development of new economic opportunities on the island is sorely needed, it is imperative that these do not degrade or destroy the very things that tourists will come to the island to see – its unique species and habitats.
The first test of this approach is the now consented 'Wirebird Hills' hotel and golf course development at Broad Bottom. This development site contains one of the five most important breeding areas for wirebirds in the world. With the St Helena National Trust, we are working with the developer and their consultants to ensure that enough undisturbed and suitably managed habitat is retained in the development area to ensure that this site remains a stronghold for the Wirebird into the future, and that the development lives up to its name.