Bustard Head Lightstation

Go to the Queensland Heritage Register for more information.
50kms south of Gladstone

Constructed in 1868, the first lighthouse built by the Queensland government after separation in 1859, and still in use as part of the coastal navigation system, Bustard Head Lightstation occupies an integral part in understanding the establishment of maritime navigational aids along the Queensland coast. Bustard Head Lightstation reflects the growth and development of Queensland after its separation from New South Wales.

Bustard Head Lightstation is associated with Captain George Poynter Heath, the first Portmaster of Queensland (1862-90) and a significant figure in the development of the Queensland lighthouse service. The Heath period of lighthouse development saw the opening up of the inner reef route for commercial shipping.

Bustard Head Lighthouse is one of only two prefabricated cast lighthouses built in Queensland and is significant for its rarity. The other prefabricated tower being the Sandy Cape Lighthouses [601712].

The area also has the potential to reveal further information about infrastructure associated with the lightstation.

The lighthouse is substantially intact, and survives as a good example of a construction technique using bolted prefabricated segments of cast iron imported from England.

Located on the south tip of Bustard Head, within a plateau surrounded by sloping forest, the lighthouse has strong aesthetic value. It makes a dramatic visual statement in the natural landscape.

Bustard Head Lightstation has strong association for lighthouse keepers' and their families who constitute an early maritime community. The group of people that are connected with lightstations are not limited to the lighthouse keepers and their families. The island's isolated location made considerable demands upon people, materials and logistics and stands as testimony to the tenacity of the people who inhabited the island after European settlement. Besides the lighthouse, the grave sites are the only other extant reminder from the 19th century.

History Description

Up until 10 December 1859, the colony of New South Wales extended as far north as Cape York Peninsula. In 1859, the new colony of Queensland acquired over 5000 kilometres of coastline which had few safety features in place, and became responsible for all navigation lights and harbours along this coastline. At the time the only lighthouse which existed had been built at Cape Moreton [600257] by the New South Wales Government in 1857.

By 1862, the Queensland government had appointed a Portmaster, Commander George Poynter Heath and had passed the Marine Board Act 1862. In the two years following, activity concentrated on dealing with pilots and harbour lights. Nothing was done regarding the issue of coastal lights and on 25 May 1864, Members of the Legislative Assembly moved that a Select Committee be appointed to enquiry into and report upon the state of the harbours and rivers in the colony. The Committee consisted of Messrs Macalister, Douglas, Sandeman, Cribb, Challinor and Bell and convened for the first time on 27 May 1864. The Committee widened the terms of reference to include..the question of the necessity of additional lighthouses on the coast of Australia, within the colony of Queensland.

A Select Committee was also appointed by the Legislative Council with the specific field of reference to enquire into and report upon the requirements of this Colony, under its increasing trade and commerce, as to the provision of additional lighthouses for its coasts and harbors.

The reports of both Select Committees were in agreement regarding the necessity of a light at Sandy Cape. Other points where it was believed that lighthouses were required were Cape Capricorn on Curtis Island, Point Danger or Cape Byron and Bustard Head [601260]. Double Island Point [601722] and Lady Elliot Island were also mentioned by the Committee as possible suitable sites.

In 1864 the government placed orders with Hennet, Spinks & Co. of Bridgewater (England) for the manufacture of a prefabricated cast iron tower, and with Chance Bros of Birmingham, England for the provision of a lantern. The material arrived in Brisbane in April 1867. In August 1867, WP Clark was awarded the contract to erect the light and ancillary buildings for £2508. He agreed to complete the work within six months but problems in site preparation, availability of labour, and inclement weather affected construction and the work took four months longer than anticipated. The light was first exhibited on 29 June 1868. A report to the Marine Department's Treasure dated 30th June, 1895, states the initial cost of constructing the Bustard Head lighthouse was £6,959, with annual maintenance costs of £472.

The lighthouse was originally entered via a door on the second level reached by an external flight of stairs and a small landing. In 1935 the stairs were relocated within the tower and a ground floor entrance provided. Of the original constructions, only the tower remains. The original houses were replaced at some unknown date by timer-framed buildings clad in fibro and with corrugated fibro roofing. The workshop and brick powerhouse are also comparatively recent constructions. A cemetery in the area contains nine graves dating from 1879 to 1911. The graves include two unmarked, child sized graves, surrounded by a white picket fence.

When North Reef station was destaffed on 18 December 1977, Bustard Head monitored its continuing operation. The computer at Bustard Head was also equipped to monitor other stations in the area in the event that they too would be automated and destaffed. Bustard Head's new position as a computer monitoring station was soon extended to include the role of head communications station previously carried out by Cape Capricorn. For many years, Cape Capricorn had provided a central communication link between the stations of Bustard Head, Lady Eliott Island, Pine Islet and Dent Island.

During the course of 1985-86, the Bustard Head Lighthouse was automated and destaffed. The two prefabricated houses remain on site.

Place Description

The Bustard Head lightstation is located in the north-eastern arm of Rodds Peninsula. The lightstation lies about twenty kilometres north-west of the Town of 1770, and about fifty kilometres south of Gladstone. The lightstation is situated on a 419 hectare reserve, bounded by the Jenny Lind Creek to the east and south, Pancake Creek to the west and the Southern Pacific Ocean to the north.

The 18 metre high lighthouse is circular in plan, constructed of cast iron plate, painted white, with splayed flanges at the base. The domed roof is clad with copper sheeting and painted red. It is surmounted by a spherical knob and weather vane. The balcony is of cantilevered iron construction with a simple iron balustrade. Fencing has been placed around the lighthouse. Further installations on the site include fencing around the fuel store.

Internally, a spiral staircase, constructed of iron, with open work cast iron treads, adjoins the internal walls of the building. A cast iron catwalk in the lantern room is supported on ornate iron brackets.

The two keepers residences are timber framed, clad with fibro cement sheeting with timber over battens. The hipped roofs are clad with corrugated fibro cement sheeting with stainless steel gutters.

The old Powerhouse, a timber framed building lined with cement sheet and a gable corrugated fibro cement roof with stainless steel gutters. There are a number of other more recent buildings including the new Powerhouse, built of brick on a concrete foundation.

Most of the service buildings date to c1940 and are of similar construction to the residences, timber framed and clad with fibro cement. Most have been subject to heavy vandalism.