Just one former Defence cabin will be retained on the Point Lonsdale Lighthouse Reserve, after a surprise decision by Queenscliffe Councillors to demolish the remaining three.
In a unanimous vote at the January Ordinary, Councillors rejected the recommendations of its own community reference group to retain all four buildings.
Under the new proposal, put forward by Councillor Tony Francis, only McDonald’s Hall – the largest of the cabins – will be restored and retained as an “interpretive exhibit.”
A second of the buildings will be transformed into a picnic and barbecue shelter, “utilising or replicating elements of the existing building.” The remaining two would make way for a “sculptural or creative element” and signage.
Councillor Francis said the decision, whilst difficult, was in the community’s best interest.
“As councillors we’re here to represent whole of community and not self-interest or political private agendas,” Cr Francis said.
“That objective is to enhance the area to increase visitations for the benefit of locals and visitors alike, to gain a greater understanding and respect for the area whilst enjoying [it] as open space.
“In doing that I think we’ve reached a fantastic outcome and that outcome respects the heritage... as well as making it an enjoyable place to be. If we want people to go there we need an area where they can read, interpret and understand the area, hence the MacDonald pavilion,” he said.
“And let’s hope we get large groups of school kids who would come and wander around a first class facility, look at the history, read the history, look at the interpretations and get a real understanding of that area because when that area doesn’t attract people it becomes a waste of space regardless of the heritage.”
The plan is reliant on approval being granted by Heritage Victoria.
It is unclear what impact it will have on a current bid for the reserve to receive a National Heritage listing. In recommending all four huts be retained the Point Lonsdale Lighthouse Reserve Reference Group argued their removal could be detrimental to the site’s inclusion.
Council will advise the Australian Heritage Council of its decision.
The P1-style huts were erected as part of a Defence camp in the early 1940’s. They were later taken over by the Toc H benevolent group to provide holiday accommodation and activities for children of war veterans.
Councillor Boyce Pizzey, a reference group member, said the results of a community survey and the views of both the group and independent project consultant (Tract) were taken into account.
“It takes account of the very important work of the reference group, it takes account of the extra report from Tract and it takes account of what I consider to be a reasonable consultation process.
“The decision is not going to make everyone happy and cannot be expected to in this case,” he said.
The State Government contributed $500,000 and the Borough of Queenscliffe $100,000 towards the $600,000 cost of the latest reserve masterplan, which also includes new pathways, improvements to the lighthouse surrounds and a ship viewing platform.
After receiving a petition from 20 Point Lonsdale business owners, Councillors rejected a proposal for a kiosk on the reserve.
Mayor Bob Merriman said the Point Lonsdale Board Rider’s Club, which occupies the Engine Shed on the reserve, would not be impacted by the outcome of the Council vote.
“A new lease is under review. I am not aware of anything but praise for [the Board Riders],” he said.