Do the four remaining P1 huts on the Point Lonsdale Lighthouse Reserve have any historical significance and should they be retained?
That is the question Borough of Queenscliffe councillors will need to determine, when the recommendations of the Point Lonsdale Lighthouse Reference Group are put before them in coming weeks.
Members of the group have met four times in the past month, chiefly to thrash out the future of the huts, which date back to WWII.
A community-backed resolution, reached some three years ago, favoured their removal, however an application to have the reserve to included on the National Heritage List – supported by the Council and local state and federal politicians - has shifted the goal posts and made it difficult for a demolition order to be given, said group member Councillor Bob Merriman.
“The starting point is that we have a resolution from the community that there should be no buildings on that site. But early in the life of this reference group, the question was raised as to the heritage value of those huts and given that there’s been an application made for Australian Heritage Council recognition of the whole area, the question has been raised as to the effect of moving all of those huts, moving three of those huts or leaving one hut,” Cr Merriman said.
“The Reference Group is looking at those three alternatives to make a recommendation to Council. It hasn’t been finalised in any detail yet.
“The concern of the reference group is that they want to be able to be confident that whatever we do with the P1 huts does not in any way affect or put at risk the heritage application."
Council would also have to consider the cost of each of the alternatives and whether they can be met, he said.
“That is the other main consideration, what is the cost of the three alternatives and can we afford it.”
Utilising one of the huts - the McDonald Hut - as an interpetive centre - is undestood to be among the group's favoured options.
According to the heritage application, the P1 huts are important for their association with our military past including the Australian Women’s Army Service [AWAS] and the housing of Italian prisoners of war.
The Toc H charity took over the buildings in 1946.
In recent years however the discarded buildings have been targeted by vandals, with one being burned to the ground in suspicious circumstances.