Dent Island is in the Whitsunday Island Group of the Great Barrier Reef approximately 18 kilometres south-east of Shute Harbour (20º 20' 21” S and 148º 55' 48” E). A lighthouse has operated on the island continuously since 1879. The historic lightstation — comprised of the lighthouse and its ancillary structures and grounds — embodies importantand evocative evidence of the historical development of aids to navigation along the Queensland coast and the history of lighthouse technology, accommodation and associated services. It is a place of cultural significance.
‘Places of cultural significance enrich people’s lives, often providing a deep and inspirational sense of connection to community and landscape, to the past and to lived experiences. They are historical records that are important as tangible expressions of Australian identity and experience. Places of cultural significance reflect the diversity of our communities, telling us about who we are and the past that has formed us and the Australian landscape…These places of cultural significance must be conserved for present and future generations.’
These words reveal the importance of places which demonstrate the pattern of Australia’s history. The Dent Island Lightstation is one such place of historical and cultural significance to Australians, particularly to the coastal communities of Queensland, reflecting the colony’s and state’s development after separation from New South Wales. A navigational light has shone on Dent Island since 1879, marking an area of danger and facilitating the safe passage of goods and people through the Great Barrier Reef.
In recognition of its significance, the lightstation is included in the Commonwealth Heritage List.
1.2. Conserving cultural significance
The southern part of Dent Island, including the lightstation site, is held on behalf of the Commonwealth by the GBRMPA, which has a responsibility to protect, preserve and transmit the heritage values of the lightstation to all generations of Australians.
The small area of land on which the lighthouse stands is leased by the GBRMPA to AMSA, another Commonwealth agency. AMSA operates the lighthouse as one of its system of aids to navigation.
The land around the lighthouse, together with the former lightkeepers’ cottages and other ancillary structures, is leased by the GBRMPA to a private lessee. The lease requires the lessee to conserve the heritage values of the part of the lightstation not leased to AMSA. The private lessee has been extensively involved in the preparation of this heritage management plan.
This heritage management plan sets out the framework and mechanisms the GBRMPA and AMSA will use to monitor, protect, conserve and manage the heritage values at Dent Island Lightstation.
1.3. Preparation of this heritage management plan
Preparation of the heritage management plan has followed good professional practice in the field. The methods used are consistent with the recommendations of The Burra Charter (Australia ICOMOS 1999) and The Conservation Plan (Kerr 2004). The plan includes a short account of the history of the place drawn from expert knowledge and documentary sources acknowledged in the text. The descriptions of the place and its current condition are based on site inspections, and the analysis of the statement of significance uses the Commonwealth Heritage criteria drawn from the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations 2000 (the EPBC Regulations).
This plan was initially drafted by the private lessee then augmented and edited by Peter Marquis-Kyle (consultant conservation architect) and reviewed by the GBRMPA and AMSA.
The draft management plan was advertised in accordance with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations 2000 jointly by GBRMPA and AMSA and the comments received were incorporated into the document. A developed draft was submitted to the Minister through the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities and in that process the Minister’s delegate sought advice from the Australian Heritage Council.
Figure — Aerial view of Dent Island Lightstation, April 2008 (Image: Hamilton Island Enterprises)
2. Heritage management plan objectives
The objectives of this heritage management plan are to:
Interpret and promote the Commonwealth Heritage values of the Dent Island Lightstation;
Manage use and where there is no adverse impact on the Commonwealth Heritage values of the place, manage adaptive re-use of the lightstation consistent with the heritage values; and
Use best practice standards, including ongoing technical and community input, and apply best available knowledge and expertise when considering actions likely to have a substantial impact on Commonwealth Heritage values.
In undertaking these objectives the heritage management plan also aims to:
Provide for the protection and conservation of the heritage values of the place while minimising any impacts on the natural environment by applying the relevant environmental management requirements in a manner consistent with all heritage conservation activities;
Take into account the significance of the island as a cultural landscape occupied by Aboriginal people over many thousands of years;
Recognise that the site has been occupied by lease holders since the early 20th century;
Encourage site uses that are compatible with the historical fabric, infrastructure and general environment; and