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Current History

The Changing Life of the Island

The island had been under control of the Federal Government, with the lighthouseDamage to buildings - 2003 - before stabilisation work. being classified by the National Trust and on the register of the National Estate.

In the late 1990's, negotiations were started to hand over the island to the New South Wales State Government after being under the care of the Australian Property Group (a commercial division of the Department of of Administrative Affairs.)

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) have managed the Lighthouse since its automation in 1975 and continues to do so.

During 2000 - 2001, the island was formally transferred over to National Parks and Wildlife as custodians, in November 2001, a Conservation Management and Cultural Tourism Plan was developed, find following an excerpt from the report:

The tower is in good overall condition, being maintained to a minimum level by AMSA. Deterioration problems were noted (in a NPWS inspection report of January 1997) as including water penetration to internal walls of single storey store due to the failure of a box gutter, severe corrosion of the entry door and frame with cracking of Photo: 2008 Inside the building - photo donated by Mark Flanderssurrounding concrete walls, decayed timber cornices, corrosion to supporting steelwork to tower platform, poor scaling of tower platform and mould growth on internal walls.

The cottages have hem allowed to deteriorate since the removal of the Lighthouse Keepers in 1975 and are in a poor state. The asbestos roofing and rainwater disposal systems have failed in many places causing water damage to many of the internal fittings and finishes. There is an invasion of vines and grasses into the courtyards and buildings, including into the roof structures, the timber detailing and joinery to the cottage verandahs are in poor condition, all internal rooms show water damage to ceilings and walls, particularly the rear rooms and kitchens. Most of the window and door joinery remains intact although extensively weathered due to loss of paint systems. There is some vandalism damage to kitchen and bathroom fittings and cupboards.

The Kitchen - 2008 - photo donated by Mark Flanders       Photo - 2008 - donated by Mark Flanders
The elevated gantry is in very poor condition, with extensive rusting of the steel framing and deterioration of the walkway decking.

The most critical priority for the South Solitary Lighthouse is for its future to he determined and its physical fabric to be secured against continuing deterioration.

NPWS and the Commonwealth are continuing to negotiate about the transfer of the lighthouse to the Service. Contingent on this transfer, NPWS are keen to resolve the issue of the compressed asbestos roofing. If the buildings are to he allowed to deteriorate into ruins the asbestos removal process will be costly and difficult. If they are to be "mothballed" then repairs are necessary in the short term.

Just 4 years after being abandoned.

The gantry is in relatively poor condition and subject to powerful forces of deterioration. Access onto the gantry platform is not wise.

The Commonwealth have been trying for years to have the gantry demolished and it does represent a major expenditure to simply stabilise the structure.

It is not acceptable given their significance and role within the collective resource of NSW Lighthouses, that the cottages and the gantry be allowed to fall into a ruinous state, precipitating future demolition. 

2004 - Men and material brought to the island.The buildings were in a state of disrepair after being abandoned in 1975. Part of this management plan was to do some emergency stabilisation work.

The logistics of completing such works were an interesting challenge, with the only access being by helicopter.  The works were started on the 31st of May 2004 and completed some 12 weeks later on the 17th of August 2004.  Only a few days were lost due to bad weather conditions.

Precision Helicopters completed about 236 return helicopter flights transporting all Taking materials over to the Island.materials and workers to the island.  Over the 12 weeks this took about 134 hours of flying time.

Everything to complete the works had to be flown to the island, this included; workers, tools, generator, timber, paint, scaffolding and a portable toilet (most important!) All the building waste, scrap, damaged roofing sheets also had to be returned to the mainland for disposal. 

Key features of the works included: 

*  Stabilisation, refixing, repair and preservation of roof sheeting;

*  Reinstatement of stormwater guttering and drainage systems;

*  Reinstatement of security through the preservation, reinstatement and/or   barricading of door and window fabric;

*  Painting of exposed chimney masonry;

*  Repair, reinstatement, refixing and repainting of eaves and facia and verandah soffit lining and posts; and,

*  Removal of all wastes. 

The buildings after stabilisation works in 2004


Taking the Portable Toilet out to South Solitary Island.

The works included boarding up the windows and doors for weather proofing.  The island is not accessible to the public, the only access to the island is during the Island Open Days.  The Open Days are a fundraising event to help establish a trust fund to help preserve and maintain the buildings.  Currently only two rooms of the Head Keepers Cottage are available for viewing, it is hoped that funds raised will be able to make other rooms and the Assistant Keepers Cottage available for public access on Open Days.

Extensive damage throughout the buildings.   Doorways weatherproofed.   New timber work.

Precision Helicopters on South Solitary Island  Click to go to Precision Helicopters