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Conserving the lighthouse

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8.6. Conserving the lighthouse

8.6.1. Issue 16: Ongoing maintenance

Policy 16: Continue the scheduled periodic maintenance of the lighthouse


The good condition of the lighthouse reflects the continuous maintenance it has received, carried out by the resident lightkeepers from 1879 to 1983, then by visiting Commonwealth staff, and more recently by AMSA’s contractors.

Implementation strategy

  1. AMSA to arrange for maintenance to be carried out to the lighthouse as required while the lighthouse continues to operate as an AMSA aid to navigation.

8.6.2. Issue 17: Equipment changes and upgrades

Policy 17: Install and operate equipment in the lighthouse, so that it continues to function as an effective marine aid to navigation, in such a way as to cause the least possible harm to the significant fabric


The 1879 tower has proved to be a versatile and durable structure, which has been adapted to accommodate changes in lighthouse technology. Future generations of equipment should be installed in a reversible manner (so that it can, in turn, be replaced by the next generation, without damage to significant fabric).

Implementation strategy

  1. Continue replacement and upgrading of aids to navigation in the lighthouse as required to meet AMSA’s service commitment, in a manner that preserves the early fabric of the lighthouse.

  2. AMSA to maintain information on the heritage fabric of the lighthouse, including any changes to the fabric, in a heritage fabric register.

8.7. Conserving the other lightstation elements

8.7.1. Issue 18: Protection and management of significant fabric

Policy 18: Protect and conserve the significant external and internal fabric of the lightstation, including existing buildings, layout and setting

Commentary — conservation, repair or restoration

To protect and conserve fabric and elements expert conserving processes may be needed. The application of these processes is often technically complicated and may require expert advice and work skills. Particular care is needed when repairing, restoring or reconstructing historic fabric to ensure as much significant fabric is retained as possible.

The significance of the place and its heritage values can be made more visible by removing more modern elements if the opportunity arises and when priorities and resources permit (e.g. when adaptive works are contemplated or future technology allows). If practical, original fabric or items removed from the place may be considered for retrieval and installation if appropriate.
Implementation strategy

  • Conserve all the elements identified as significant in the table of physical elements (Section 6.2) and their setting.

  • If and when identified and necessary, seek expert materials conservation advice when considering repair, restoration and reconstruction of historic fabric.

Commentary maintaining the fabric of the lightstation

Maintenance of heritage places sometimes involves the need to replace decayed or damaged fabric. The Burra Charter recommends doing only as much as necessary but as little as possible.

Implementation strategy

  • Minimise the extent of any intervention in significant fabric by removing only those parts requiring replacement for structural or safety reasons.

  • Replace or patch the damaged or decayed fabric with like but easily identified as new fabric inserted into the structure or material (see Burra Charter).

Commentary the setting

The history of changes to vegetation — including the results of past clearing, grazing, household gardening and revegetation — is part of the cultural significance of the Dent Island Lightstation. Where the protection of cultural values is inconsistent with other conservation aims, such conflicts should be resolved by finding a subtle balance. Instances of possible conflict include the coconut palm trees that hang over the roofs of the houses — these mature trees are significant for their evidence of the lightkeepers’ adapting their surroundings, but they now pose a risk of damaging the brittle asbestos-cement roof sheeting in times of strong winds. In this case it might be appropriate to remove the trees as they approach senescence and replace them with younger specimens. Another possible conflict concerns introduced garden plants, which demonstrate the pattern of household gardening by the lightkeepers, some of which are invasive and threaten the native vegetation.

Implementation strategy

  • Maintain evidence of significant vegetation patterns by timely removal and replanting, with appropriate expert advice.

  • In the process of planning the management of vegetation on Dent Island, take account of the cultural significance of plant material.

  • Recognise the importance of maintaining the lightstation as a significant landmark feature seen from the sea. Structures that obscure or distract from these views should not be constructed.

  • For planning purposes the area around the lightstation seen from the Whitsunday Passage, from the foreshore to the sky and extending 300 m north and south of the lightstation, should be treated as an area of particular sensitivity in relation to heritage values associated with the lightstation.

8.7.2. Issue 19: Adaptation

Policy 19: Consider only new adaptive re-uses for the place that are compatible with its cultural significance


Heritage places are often subject to change over time to provide for new uses. Making use of a heritage place is often the most effective measure to ensure its conservation. Adaptation can also have an adverse impact if a new use requires intrusive adaptation to the significant fabric. Adaptation of a lighthouse area for a new use is not always an easy or suitable way to manage the place because of its distinctive form and because a new use often requires additional accommodation that confuses the stand-alone quality. Adaptation for new uses must therefore be tempered to ensure that the new use does not diminish the capacity for its easy interpretation.

Changes to the lightstation area may be allowed to implement reasonable use of the lightstation area, consistent with its heritage significance, provided the heritage management plan policies are followed.
Elements of the fabric of the lightstation area, which are deemed to have a hazardous or harmful effect (for example, asbestos-related materials in a decayed, frayed or unstable condition or lead-based paint), may require containment, modification or, if there is no feasible or prudent alternative, its removal. If removal is necessary because of its hazardous state, legislative requirements govern this process. Where asbestos is not in an unstable condition its retention and maintenance, as part of the significant fabric, is appropriate.
Adaptation of the fabric may be permitted provided the cultural significance of the lightstation is not adversely affected. Such adaptation may include changes to bring the accommodation up to reasonable modern standards.
Implementation strategy

  • Conserve the current colour scheme and distinctive character of the place by:

  • not permitting any additional structures to be built, or structural changes, visible from the Whitsunday Passage, from the foreshore to the sky and extending 300 m north and south of the lightstation

    • collecting, prior to and immediately following any conservation, maintenance, preservation or adaptation work, photographic evidence of the fabric for historical records and interpretive use

    • undertaking paint scrapes to identify original colour coatings used on historic fabric

    • using protective coatings in the colours found by the paint scrape technique.

  • Consider for the purposes of conservation, a viable economic use for the lightstation area, to ensure the maintenance of all significant fabric and its protection from non-action.

  • Do only what is necessary for the continued use and care of the place.

  • Make changes apparent on close inspection, to protect the authenticity of the place.

  • Make changes reversible, so that their impact can be removed in future.

  • Approval in writing must be granted for any proposals for development or adaptive re-use.

  • Consider any proposed alterations or adaptations that impact on the heritage values of the place.

  • Use and comply with:

    • The approved General Maintenance Plan.

    • The approved Environmental Management System.

    • Retain in situ asbestos material that is stable, and contained to the extent that it is not in a hazardous condition.

    • Remove hazardous, unstable and frayed asbestos in accordance with Australian legislative requirements.

    • Replace removed hazardous asbestos with materials of the same profile, thickness and size as the fabric removed.

    • Remove lead-based paint found to be in an uncontained, unstable or decaying condition.

    • Upgrade the kitchen and bathroom facilities compatible with the fabric of the place.

    • Install air-conditioning equipment in a discreet, visually benign and appropriate place.

8.7.3. Issue 20: Below-ground fabric

Policy 20: In the event of unforeseen discoveries or disturbances (for example, works that expose any archaeological remains), cease work until appropriate advice is obtained


The Environmental Management System to be implemented under the lease and permits for the private lessee for Dent Island will outline the response to emergencies and new discoveries on the island. Well-documented records of the lightstation assist in this process.

In the case of potential or actual damage to the heritage values of the lightstation or archaeological discoveries, the GBRMPA and AMSA will seek heritage advice.
Implementation strategy

  • Seek appropriate heritage advice and apply best heritage practice in the event of unforeseen discoveries or disturbances.

8.7.4. Issue 21: Services

Policy 21: Keep new piped and wired services distribution lines underground, and plan for least disturbance of below-ground evidence

Recent works carried out by the private lessee have included installation of underground power cables, telephone cables and water supply lines.

Implementation strategy

  • Coordinate installation of services to occupy common trenches as far as possible.

  • Plan the location of trenches to avoid areas formerly occupied by structures.

8.7.5. Issue 22: Hazardous materials

Policy 22: Avoid the release of hazardous materials by avoidance, encapsulation or replacement

Most of the lightstation buildings include at least some asbestos-cement components, such as corrugated roof sheeting and accessories, and wall and ceiling linings. Another potentially hazardous material is paint containing lead pigment.

Implementation strategy

  • Safely remove or encapsulate lead paint.

  • Stabilise or avoid disturbance of asbestos-cement.

  • Investigate replacement of asbestos-cement with non-hazardous alternatives.

8.7.6. Issue 23: Vegetation

Policy 23: Maintain the evidence of historical landscape management practices such as clearing of native vegetation and the introduction of garden plants, while protecting against the propagation of weeds outside of the immediate lightstation area

The QPWS will advise on fire management plans for Dent Island, and will include Dent Island in regional pest and weed management strategies. Appendix 10.9 lists introduced garden plants at the lightstation.

Implementation strategy

  • Manage the vegetation in the lightstation area in ways that keep the evidence of cultural practices.

8.7.7. Issue 24: The engine room

Policy 24: Maintain and conserve the engine room, while adapting it for use as the electrical distribution point for the lightstation

The building contains a mixture of equipment, some of which was introduced after the station was automated and de-manned — this later equipment is not significant.

Implementation strategy

  • Leave in situ any equipment associated with the operation of the manned lightstation.

  • Install new equipment in a reversible manner.

8.7.8. Issue 25: The winch house and derrick crane

Policy 25: Maintain and conserve the winch house, derrick crane and associated structures

These structures — including the winch house, landing platform, landing stage, derrick crane, boat platform and access ladder — are to be conserved in accordance with an engineer’s report prepared in 2012.

Implementation strategy

  • Stabilise the concrete slab of the landing platform.

  • Conserve the derrick crane and winch house.

  • Preserve the machinery.

8.7.9. Issue 26: The cottages

Policy 26: Maintain and conserve the two cottages, with minor adaptation to support continued use

Following extensive refurbishment carried out by the private lessee, with the approval of the GBRMPA, the houses are in sound and secure condition, and fit for use by the staff who live in them.

Implementation strategy

  • Continue regular maintenance of the two cottages.

  • Adapt the cottages in a reversible manner to facilitate continued domestic use.

8.7.10. Issue 27: The septic system

Policy 27: Maintain the septic system

The two cottages are connected to a drainage system, intended to deal with liquid waste from kitchens, bathrooms and toilets. This system was installed when the cottages were built, and it continues in service.

Implementation strategy

  • Prevent disposal of waste material that is incompatible with the septic system.

  • Monitor the performance of the system, and do periodic maintenance as required for proper operation.

8.7.11. Issue 28: The concrete water tank

Policy 28: Maintain the concrete water tank to ensure an adequate supply of water

The concrete water tank has recently been refurbished by the private lessee. It stores rainwater from the roofs of the houses. Water is pumped from this tank up to a new header tank on the hill behind the houses, from where it feeds by gravity to the houses.

Implementation strategy

  • Periodically inspect the tank to ensure the soundness of the structure and safety of the water supply.

8.7.12. Issue 29: The tramline

Policy 29: Preserve the fabric of the tramway, trolley and cable

The tramway and its associated equipment demonstrates the historical pattern of use of the site by the keepers. It was an important facility, along with the winch and crane, for the safe handling of fuel, stores and equipment delivered by sea.

Implementation strategy

  • Move the trolley to the top of the tramway, and protect it with a removable lightweight cover.

  • Protect the two steel turning blocks (presently lying on the ground) by moving them to a location on site that is under cover.

8.7.13. Issue 30: The paths, stairs and bridges

Policy 30: Preserve the paths, stairs and bridges. Adapt them to the minimum extent necessary for the safe occupation of the cottages.

These paths and stairs have been laid out and built in stages, and they demonstrate the historical pattern of use of the site by the keepers. The present arrangement generally reflects the state of the lightstation after the two cottages were built in the 1950s. The stairs are narrow, and their inconsistent dimensions do not meet current design standards. However, only some of the routes are in regular use now, since the lighthouse and the winch house are not in use. The safety of the paths and stairs that give access to the cottages is a current issue.

Implementation strategy

  • Add standard galvanised steel tubular railings (as used for functional structures at Hamilton Island) where needed for safe use of the paths next to the cottages.

8.7.14. Issue 31: The polyethylene water tank

Policy 31: Allow native vegetation to mask the views of the tank

The header tank recently installed by the private lessee on the hill behind the cottages is visible at present.

Implementation strategy

  • Plant appropriate vegetation around the tank.

8.7.15. Issue 32: The graves

Policy 32: Preserve the fabric and evidence of the graves

The two grave surrounds — one of wrought iron, the other of timber pickets — are poignant reminders of life and death on remote lightstations.

Implementation strategy

  • Repair the wooden enclosure, reconstructing any missing or unsound parts to match the detail of the original, and causing the least possible disturbance of the ground.

  • Protect the graves and the area around them from disturbance.

8.7.16. Issue 33: The lightstation grounds

Policy 33: Maintain the character of the grounds, and their evidence of use

The lightstation grounds — with their tended grass and introduced plants — reflect the ordered life of the keepers and their families.

Implementation strategy

  • Continue mowing and maintenance of the grass.

  • Remove overgrown or senescent plantings.

  • Maintain an unobstructed view of the lighthouse from seaward.

8.7.17. Issue 34: The boulders

Policy 34: Continue stabilisation and monitoring of the boulders on the hill behind the lightstation

There have been several campaigns of work to ensure the boulders are not dislodged, as recorded in the drawing by Cardno Ullman & Nolan, geotechnical engineers, reproduced in Appendix 10.8.

Implementation strategy

  • Monitor the positions of the boulders annually in accordance with the geotechnical engineer’s recommendations.

8.7.18. Issue 35: The access road

Policy 35: Allow native vegetation to soften the visible edges of the road. Do not develop any structured garden bed or plantings along the line of the road.

The concrete roadway is visually intrusive. It can be made less intrusive with vegetation that merges with the surrounding landscape.

Implementation strategy

  • Remove exotic plantings from beside the road, and encourage informal growth of native vegetation.

8.7.19. Issue 36: The spa bath

Policy 36: Remove the spa bath and shelter, keeping the remains of the base of the old shed

The spa is not currently used, and is visually intrusive.

Implementation strategy

  • Remove the spa bath and shelter.

8.7.20. Issue 37: The fowl house

Policy 37: Preserve the fowl house and run

The fowl house and fenced enclosure demonstrate the practice of keeping chickens for eggs and meat.

Implementation strategy

  • Protect the structure from disturbance.

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