The Cocos (Keeling) Islands have held a special place in the literature on coral atolls because they represent the only atoll that Charles Darwin visited, and they played a central role in his discussion of his theory of coral reef development.
In 1984, the Commonwealth handed over most of the land of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Shire Council, to be held in trust for the people of the Islands. This trust deed stipulated that North Keeling Island was to be managed to conserve the unique flora and fauna of the Island. The conservation significance of North Keeling was clearly recognised when the Island was recommended to become a national park or nature reserve by two House of Representative committees in 1990 and 1991 and when the island was listed on the Register of the National Estate in 1990.
In mid 1993, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Shire Council decided in principle to lease North Keeling Island to the Commonwealth for the creation of a national park. This lease was signed by the Commonwealth and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Shire Council in January 1995 and stipulated that North Keeling Island must be developed as a national park of world standard.
Upon the proclamation of Pulu Keeling National Park on the 12th December 1995, the Commonwealth's interest as lessee passed to the Director of National Parks as provided for by section 7(7) of the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975. The lease is now between the Council and the Director.
This will help ensure the long-term conservation of the unique biodiversity of Pulu Keeling National Park and safeguard the island's natural and historical attributes for the benefit of both the Cocos-Malay community and the wider local, national and international communities.