KIAMA councillor and Kiama-Jamberoo RSL Sub-Branch secretary Dennis Seage has hit out at NSW Minister for natural resources, lands and water Kevin Humphries for putting thumbscrews on plans paint an Anzac logo on the Kiama lighthouse
The sub-branch had proposed to have the logo on the lighthouse from 2014 - 2018 to mark the Centenary of World War I.
The sub-branch had received approval from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs for the use of the logo and had hoped to have had the logo painted by last Monday, which marked 100 years since the hostilities of WWI began.
That plan was scuttled last Friday when the NSW Crown Lands Division advised the sub-branch that a full heritage assessment would need to be supplied before approval for the painting would be given.
Mr Seage labelled the decision and its timing as disgraceful.
‘‘It’s pretty disgraceful, in my opinion it’s a national disgrace,’’ he said.
‘‘This has been a year in the planning and then at this late stage the minister makes the decision to play the heritage card.
‘‘From the very beginning the department has marked time and dragged the chains on this and then at the last minute they want a full heritage assessment.’’
Mr Seage said in his role as a councillor he could not support rate-payer money being spent on an assessment.
‘‘I couldn’t support us using rate-payer’s money on assessment that could cost us thousands and thousands of dollars.
‘‘The council and the RSL guaranteed the lighthouse would be fully restored after the commemorations, I mean we’re talking about paint, it’s not as if we wanted to disassemble it and then bring it back four years later.’’
Mr Seage said the minister’s office had only received three submissions against the proposal.
‘‘There was a letter from Victoria, one from somebody on the Central Coast and one from Kiama, all from members of lighthouse societies.
‘‘One women said it was graffiti and accused us of using the lighthouse as a billboard.
‘‘We’re not using it to sell chocolates, 62 000 people never made it back [from WWI] and lighthouses like this would have been the last things they saw as they left on ships and we thought this would be a great way to commemorate them.’’
Kiama lighthouse enthusiast and Lighthouses of Australia vice-president Ian Clifford, who has provided advice to Crown Lands on lighthouse issues, said the sub-branch could have saved themselves a lot of dissapointment had they carried a out a heritage assessment prior to their proposal.
‘‘From day one they were told that a heritage building needs a heritage assessment and I think they didn’t do that because they knew what the outcome would be,’’ Mr Clifford said.
‘‘There has never been a logo painted on a lighthouse in Australia, partly because of their heritage value and partly because of the precedent it would set.
‘‘The Anzac commemoration is a great cause, but we have 200 towers across Australia and if you let one logo be put on a lighthouse how do you say no to the next worthy charity that comes along?’’
Mr Clifford also said there had been more community objections to the proposal than what Mr Seage claimed.
‘‘I know a lot of people who objected and who wrote straight to the minister’s office and some of them were returned servicemen.
‘‘I’d say that if you went and spoke to everybody in the area then it might be split right up the middle, but it’s surprising just how polarising the issue has been.’’
A Crown Lands spokesperson said the department generally didn’t support proposals involving the painting of light houses.
‘‘The Kiama Lighthouse is heritage listed on the Register of the National Estate in recognition of its strong cultural and community significance in relation to the area’s maritime history,’’ the spokesperson said.
‘‘Any proposals which may affect the lighthouse need proper assessment, Crown Lands general position is to not support the painting of logos or artworks on lighthouses.
‘‘To date, three submissions have been received from the community expressing concern about the proposal to paint the Centenary of Anzac logo on the Kiama Lighthouse, one of the submissions was from Lighthouses Australia, on behalf of multiple objectors.’’