When US-based couple Neil Lapetina and Denise Cordero spent $20,000 to explore the world – and one of its most unique locations – they had dreams of a once-in-a-lifetime hike through Lord Howe Island’s stunning scenery.

But days before their departure, their excitement turned to horror when the pair learned that a large number of eco-destinations had been suddenly closed off – up to 75 per cent of them.

The reason? The Lord Howe Island Board [LHIB] were working to contain an airborne fungus with potentially devastating consequences for the World Heritage-listed destination, and the 241 species of Indigenous plants to which it is home – 47 per cent of which can only be found there.

Additionally, those can primarily be found along the island’s numerous hiking trails in the Permanent Park Preserve [PPP], prompting the mass closures for three-quarters of its total area.

However, this meant that Neil and Denise – as well as any other traveller with tickets to visit – were in some trouble, as compensation wasn’t being offered to them.

“We were told that they knew about this on February 3,” Neil said, “by their own admission, and if they knew about it [then]), then there’s a chance we might have not have paid our non-refundable balance due.

“First and foremost, myrtle rust has hit the island hard — our first concern is with the island. We’re confused: if it’s as bad as they say it is, then don’t have people come out.”

Myrtle rust has the potential to destroy entire Australian ecosystems, and spreads at rapid pace as its spores can be carried by wind, animals, insects, and humans alike, so it’s no small wonder the LHIB took immediate action to combat the threat.

Fellow traveller Ian Freestone – who has visited the island numerous times before – had plans to celebrate his birthday there with 30 guests. After forking out a staggering $60,000 for the trip, they were informed that the trails would not be available to them, with closures to the PPP.

Ian told 7News the whole thing was like “going to Luna Park but not [being] allowed on all the rides.”

And for those who had been left on the island after the LHIB’s “effective immediately, the PPP is temporarily closed” announcement, the situation was not much better, with some claiming they – and their holiday funds – had been “left in limbo”.

And while the island’s initial closure had been sudden – and crucial – it was only 10 days before the LHIB announced that the PPP would be partially reopening.

“After extensive monitoring, no new sites of myrtle rust infestation have been located on the island. Importantly, as of yesterday (March 23), there were no active spores at known sites,” they said.

But for some, this wasn’t enough, with many noting that they just would have appreciated “a bit of notice”, especially after spending so much to visit in the first place.

Neil – and assumedly Denise – were of a similar opinion. Although they value the island’s flora, they pleaded for some compassion from the LHIB in the wake of their snap decision, and its consequences for themselves and the other impacted travellers.

“We’re putting $20,000, between the two couples, into this. I’ve worked hard all my life for this, for money – this doesn’t grow on trees,” he said.

“We’re nature lovers … we get it. But communication has been lacking. To hear about this first through word-of-mouth, that’s not the way to do it.

“Please, show your visitors some respect.”

Images: Facebook

This article first appeared on Over60.