The largest island in the Hunter Group, Hunter Island lies six kilometres off the north-west tip of Tasmania. The island is 7330 ha in size, approximately 25 km long, and 6.5 km wide at its widest point. Three Hummock Island, another island in the group, is managed for conservation.
The highest point of the island lies at 90 m above sea level, from where low undulating hills roll away to the coast. The native vegetation is largely intact with only 860 ha cleared for grazing and residential use. Heathlands and coastal scrub make up nearly 80 per cent of the native vegetation, with swamp forests, buttongrass moorlands, native grasslands, woodlands, muttonbird colonies, saltmarshes and lichen fields providing a wide range of habitats.
Hunter Island shows evidence of 23 000 years of continuous occupation by Aboriginal people and has been inhabited by non-Aboriginal people for approximately 170 years. Many different owners have grazed cattle on the island lease since 1853.
As can often be the case, despite its history of occupation, clearing and grazing, Hunter Island still retains its significance for conservation. The island is important for six threatened bird species, including the orange-bellied parrot, swift parrot, white-bellied sea eagle, shy albatross, Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle and fairy prion.
The orange-bellied parrot is nationally endangered with only 200 mature individuals remaining. The birds use Hunter Island as a resting and feeding place each year on their passage to King Island and the Victorian and South Australian coasts. However, in recent years there has been significant damage to the island���s saltmarsh and coastal dune communities on which the parrots depend. White-bellied sea eagles, recently listed as vulnerable in Tasmania, nest on Hunter Island in numbers greater than anywhere else in the state.
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Hunter Island supports six ecological communities that are of priority for conservation at state level: Eucalyptus viminalis coastal forest, muttonbird colony, Leptospermum/Melaleuca swamp forest, Melaleuca ericifolia forest, dune vegetation and shrubby coastal heath.
The island and the Hunter Island group were named by British navigator Matthew Flinders after John Hunter, Governor, of the Colony of New South Wales, in December 1798 during the first recorded circumnavigation of Tasmania.
The Hunter Group of Islands lie in Bass Strait off the north-west tip of Tasmania due south of Geelong, Victoria. The island and the island group were named in December 1798 by British navigator Matthew Flinders after John Hunter, Governor, of the Colony of New South Wales, during the first recorded circumnavigation of Tasmania.