The great-granddaughter of a former lighthouse keeper on Breaksea Island — once touted as Albany’s next big eco-tourism destination — fears the heritage site may disintegrate into the ocean if more work is not done to shore it up.
The 155-year-old lighthouse received a $1.3m Federal grant in 2009 aimed at restoring the site to its former glory, but the money ran out in September 2010, leaving the deserted island only accessible to Department of Environment and Conservation officers for the past two years.
Work has been completed on two cottages on the island and a timber boardwalk now connects the jetty to the cottages, but the site remains unused by the wider public.
Laura Player, whose great-grandfather Job Augustus Sym8onds was lighthouse keeper from 1887 to 1894, said more needed to be done to protect the lighthouse from the elements.
“It’s being eroded by the wind — that’s what’s deteriorating it, the winds and the storms and the rains. Because the roof’s been off and it’s not been stabilised properly yet, there’s a great fear it’s going to deteriorate before it’s saved,” she said.
“Is this important relic going to deteriorate down to ground level before it gets more funding?”
Ms Player is hopeful more funding can be secured to allow the site to open to the public.
Albany Maritime Federation chairman Ron Waterman said his group had contributed $25,000 to support restoration works and develop a Heritage Conservation plan for the island. He is disappointed the work has failed to deliver tourism outcomes.
“The AMF is keen to see this development completed and for the department to honour its commitment to opening the island for controlled visitation,” he said.
“We believe a development of this calibre would add a significant and much needed boost to our local tourism industry.”
But Albany Whale Tours operator John Woodbury said the island’s inaccessibility by boat may make it unsustainable as an eco-tourism destination.
“You’re in a sea way and the swells are moving the boat deck up and down between one and two metres,” he said.
“Getting them (people) off again is going to be dictated by the wind strength as a controlling factor.”
A spokeswoman for DEC said island infrastructure was being maintained on an as-needs basis.
The department has not sought any more funding since cost blowouts scuppered the project in 2010.
The agency could not say how much more money was needed to get the project off the ground.