This heritage management plan deals directly with the area that was historically used by the lighthouse keepers who maintained the lighthouse between 1879 and 1987 — that is, Lots 1 and 2 on HR2019, plus about 14 600m2 of Lot 4 (Figure 13). It includes the lighthouse, the two keepers’ houses, the store, the winch house, the workshop/store/radio-room and the engine room. Also included are the tramway, the derrick crane, various concrete paths, two graves, septic tanks, the main concrete water tank, the water header tank on its steel lattice stand, the fowl house, and the spa bath and its roof (Figure 11).
The heritage value of the lightstation could be affected adversely by changes in its visual setting — this is the area seen around the lightstation from seaward, from the shore up to the line of the ridge behind the station to the east, and extending about 300 m to the north and south of the station.
Dent Island is an area of steep and moderate vegetated slopes rising from the rocky foreshore up to a ridge that runs roughly parallel with the shore line. It is covered with eucalypt forest and woodland (Corymbia tessellaris and Eucalyptus tereticornis) open forest and vine thicket understorey on hill slopes, also present are areas of variable eucalypt dominated associations (often with Eucalyptus drepanophylla, E. crebra, Acacia spirorbis subsp. solandri, Lophostemon confertus and E. exserta) and grassland on the southern portion (Xanthorrhoea latifolia subsp. latifolia shrubland and Imperata cylindrica grassland, including some areas recently colonised by Timonius timon shrubland), with a few clumps of hoop pine (Araucaria cunninghamii). It contrasts with the more open landscape of the lightstation where native trees have been cleared (except for the hoop pines), the grass has been kept mown, and garden plants have been introduced.
5. Cultural significance
The cultural significance of the Dent Island Lightstation is set out in the entry in the Commonwealth Heritage List to which the lightstation was added in 2004. The cultural significance as described is discrete from the overall Aboriginal cultural significance of the entire region as noted previously. The statements from the list are reproduced below, with some comments and suggestions made on the basis of recent investigations.
5.1. Previous listings
The cultural significance of the Dent Island Lightstation was already recognised when the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 came into effect. The following listings are noted here for the record, although they do not have any legislative effect on the management or operation of the lightstation.
The National Trust of Queensland Register — the lightstation is currently not listed by the National Trust (pers. Comm 2012, National Trust of Queensland).
The Queensland Heritage Register — Dent Island Lighthouse was entered in the state register at the commencement of the Queensland Heritage Act 1992 under the transitional arrangements from the Heritage Buildings Protection Act 1990, but was later removed after legal advice that listing in the State register was not valid for Commonwealth-owned places. As a result of receiving this advice about the Dent Island case, the Queensland Heritage Council removed from its register all other places owned by the Commonwealth (pers. comm. 2012, Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection).
The Register of the National Estate — Dent Island Lightstation was entered in this register in 1980. This listing no longer has any effect on the management of the place, since the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 has taken over the relevant functions of the Heritage Commission Act 1975.
5.2. Summary statement of significance
The current Commonwealth Heritage List summary is shown in italic type below, with comments interspersed in roman type:
Dent Lighthouse, constructed in 1879, is significant as a light tower built in response to the dramatic expansion of regular coastal shipping along the inner route of the Great Barrier Reef, following the economic development of Northern Queensland (Criterion A.4).
Concerning the name of the place, since 1879 it has been known officially as Dent Island Lighthouse or Dent Island Lightstation — that name should be used in the heritage list. While it is known that the Gnaro people may have had their own name for Dent Island, this has not been recorded on any known document.
As well as being a response to the expansion of shipping, the lighthouse is an important manifestation of the colonial government’s policy of investing in infrastructure, such as railways and lighthouses, to encourage the expansion of economic activity. The Lighthouse is significant as an intact representative example of a timber-framed, iron clad tower (Type B), an adaptation by the Queensland Government of the imported prefabricated type using components from the United Kingdom (Criterion D.2).
The design was not an adaptation of the prefabricated cast iron form as used at Bustard Head (first lit 1868) and Sandy Cape (1870). Rather, it was derived from other sources including the timber lighthouses being built in Canada, with the local invention of using boiler plate sheeting. Type B is not part of a recognised typology, and has no meaning here. Dent Lighthouse is important as one of a pair of identical lighthouse towers in the Whitsunday Passage, the other being situated at Cape Cleveland (Criterion D.2).
Cape Cleveland is not in the Whitsunday Passage, but about 200 km further north. The two are no longer identical — at Cape Cleveland the stair, weight tube, and timber lining have been removed, and at Dent Island the lantern base has been modified. The Lightstation Complex of tower, houses, store shed, engine room and combined workshop/radio room, dating from 1879 to c. 1960, are significant as a complete intact example of a Lightstation Complex in Queensland. Later stages of development have integrated with the original fabric and detail of the Lightstation, contributing to the continuum of a complex dedicated to the single aim of maintaining the navigation aid (Criterion A.4).