Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg has directed the National Heritage Council to undertake a formal review, to determine its suitability to sit alongside more than 100 other iconic locations.
The Council will now seek feedback from the public, stakeholders and others potentially affected by the listing, including Indigenous people – a process that could take upwards of two years.
“Consultation, including in relation to the geographical boundary of any National Heritage listed site, is integral,” said Corangamite MP Sarah Henderson, who has been vocal in her support of the reserve’s inclusion on the list. “This means that the community will be offered the opportunity to submit that historical parts of Queenscliff should also be considered.
“I visited the site with the then Environment Minister Greg Hunt in May 2016 and was proud to throw my support behind the push for National Heritage listing.
“I strongly believe that the Point Lonsdale Lighthouse Reserve and environs would make a worthy addition to the 110 places that already feature on our National Heritage List, which includes the Great Ocean Road.”
The Reserve is just one of two nationwide to gain priority assessment. The other is Finnis Springs Mission in South Australia.
The announcement is in response to a nomination, lodged by resident Andrew Sutherland which detailed the reserve’s maritime, defence and cultural assets as justification for inclusion.
The lighthouse has navigational aids and defence structures associated with the first and second World Wars. The reserve was first used in the mid-ninteenth century to help guide the safe entry of shipping into Port Phillip for the Victorian colony. It is also the site of William Buckley’s cave.
“It’s been a long fight to get this far but it’s not over yet. With rampant development occurring west of Point Lonsdale, keeping precious foreshore open space is an absolute priority. The foreshore is what residents and visitors all come to Point Lonsdale to enjoy. Keeping the foreshore accessible to all comers, not just niche groups, is my passion,” said long-time heritage advocate Lester Hunt.
“Importantly, NHL will mean that the many historic structures - dating back to the 1850’s on the Reserve, will get the formal recognition that recent local planning schemes have failed to accurately document.”
Queenscliffe Council, which manages the reserve, has been forced into an embarrassing backflip as a result of Mr Frydenberg’s announcement. Having refused to support Mr Sutherland’s nomination it has now moved to have a report tabled at its August Council meeting detailing the “significance and implications “ of the listing.
“I think it’s terribly important that the process from here on in is fully understood by all of us,” cautioned Councillor Bob Merriman. “Certainly we’ll be waiting for the Heritage Council to come forward with their report. “