QSwharfth.jpg (4017 bytes)Manly Quarantine Station

Quarantine Station Information Kit

Save The Quarantine Station From Privatisation

FroQS Information Kit 

Published by Friends of Quarantine Station Inc.


1. Introduction

1.1 The vision

1.2 The Friends of Quarantine Station

1.3 The agenda

1.4 The objectives

2. The Setting of the Quarantine Station

2.1 A remarkable place

2.2 A fragile environment

2.3 History of Quarantine Station up to 1984

2.4 Significance to the community since 1984

3. Chronology

3.1 Overview 1984 to 1999

3.2 Lease process

4. Conservation Plan - A Contradiction in Terms

4.1 An inadequate plan

4.2 The cultural heritage

4.3 The natural heritage

4.4 Threatened species protection

4.5 A revised plan

5. The Broader Context - North Head and Sydney Harbour

5.1 Sydney Harbour foreshores - the vision

5.2 North Head - a unified strategy and plan

6. The Future

6.1 Viable options

6.2 FroQS submission to the Minister

7. Actions We Can Take

7.1 Writing to key people

7.2 Ideas for letters

7.3 Spreading the word

7.4 Reaching Cyberspace

7.5 Helping the cause

8. Maps - from Section 22 Committee Report

8.1 Land Ownership

8.2 Landuse and Tenure

8.3 Landscape Management

8.4 Cultural and Natural Heritage


1.1 The Vision

The Quarantine Station provides Australians with an intact example of cultural heritage and natural environment which is unique in the world. Preserved by its history, isolated by its geography, and standing at the gateway to Sydney Harbour, the Quarantine Station deserves to be managed by the people of NSW, for the people, to ensure the maintenance of its natural and cultural values, character and ambience.

1.2 The Friends of Quarantine Station - FroQS

FroQS Inc. has been formed by a group of distinguished and concerned individuals who share a genuine concern about the future of the Quarantine Station at Manly. The group is seeking to ensure that the Quarantine Station is held in public control so that the widest number of people may be able to enjoy its history and heritage. This will be achieved through the implementation of a plan of management based on principles of environmentally-sustainable development which reflect the interest of both the community and the State.

1.3 The Issue

At issue is the proposal by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service that could see the whole of the Quarantine Station leased out to a commercial hotel operator for a period of 40+ years. FroQS is opposed to a head lease arrangement that will result in the site being inappropriately developed. This would limit public access and control, thus compromising the Vision for Quarantine Station. A long-term head lease arrangement could also jeopardise potential adaptive reuses for the former North Head Artillery School which is to be handed over to Sydney Harbour National Park.

The Quarantine Station does not need to be leased to a head operator in order to be commercially viable. A new conservation and management approach for the whole of North Head provides a number of opportunities which would allow the Quarantine Station to operate under public management by the National Parks and Wildlife Service with the full support of the community.

1.4 The Objectives of FroQS

1. To ensure that the Quarantine Station is preserved and protected in all its heritage aspects - natural, cultural and built - in order that it be appropriately conserved.

2. To make the history and heritage of Quarantine Station available to and appreciated by the widest number of people through interpretation and education.

3. To support the Quarantine Station by fundraising, provision of volunteers to undertake work on site, pro bono professional work, advocacy and any other suitable avenues.

4. To ensure that planning for Quarantine Station is integrated into planning for the whole of North Head.

5. To ensure public access to all parts of Quarantine Station under appropriate management to protect its integrity and fragile environment.

2. The Setting

2.1 A Remarkable Place

The Quarantine Station which is part of the Sydney Harbour National Park forms the inner edge to North Head. The headland is the largest area of unalienated and relatively untouched bushland on the Sydney Harbour foreshores. 

North Head originally stood as a virtual island connected only to the mainland by a narrow sand isthmus at Manly. The undisturbed, vegetated high level sand dunes which cover parts of the plateau are without equivalent in the Sydney region and are considered to date from before the last interglacial period - over 140,000 year ago. 

The Quarantine Station itself has benefitted from its long historical isolation. A stone wall crossing from harbour to ocean and the rugged coastline formed man-made and natural barriers that not only kept in quarantined inmates but kept out urban development.

2.2 A Fragile Environment

The native flora and fauna at North Head, though under threat, have by and large remained. Remarkable micro ecosystems occur - such as remnant rainforest, hanging swamps, melaleuca forest and heathland as well as the harbour's only aquatic reserve.

There is a number of plants of significance including the threatened Acacia terminalis ssp terminalis, the endangered Eucalyptus camfieldii, and Erythrorchis cassythoides which is found at its southern limit. There are over 600 species of flora on North Head. Some of these have national significance and three have regional significance. The unusual life forms, endangered and rare species have high botanical interest.

The long-nosed bandicoot and little penguin were the first common species in the world to be listed as Threatened Colonies at North Head under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995. The long-nosed bandicoot nests in the sheltering thickets bordering the grassy areas which it uses for foraging. The little penguin forages along the shores of Spring Cove and is the only breeding colony on the mainland of NSW.

Spring Cove is part of the North (Sydney) Harbour Aquatic Reserve gazetted in 1982 because of its diversity. Some of the colony's earliest marine specimens were collected from Spring Cove during the 1830s and are on display at the Australian Museum. The area offers a magnificent array of invertebrates and juvenile tropical fish during the warmer months, including damsel fishes, wrasses and butterfly fishes that would normally be encountered on the Great Barrier Reef. 

This natural legacy has left us with an extremely fragile environment which being so close to the centre of a major metropolis is unique. North Head needs to be carefully managed by experts who can appropriately care for its complex diversity. 

2.3 History of Quarantine Station up to 1984

The area of North Head known as Spring Cove was first declared as Quarantine Station by Governor Bourke in the 1830s. It operated as such until the early 1970s. Ownership of the site was transferred to the State Government in 1984 and it has operated as an education and conference centre since this time. Prior to European occupation it had been a place where Aboriginal people lived their daily lives and conducted their ceremonies.

The site contains some 66 buildings used to house the incoming passengers from the ships which were struck with contagious diseases such as smallpox and influenza. There are over 1500 rock engravings etched by those who spent time on the Station from a variety of national and cultural backgrounds - both Asian and European.

The heritage site documents in microcosm the history of immigration to Australia, providing insights into the cultural mix and social class of those who made the journey and who had the misfortune to be quarantined. It also documents the history and treatment of many infectious diseases.

2.4 Significance to the Community since 1984

The Quarantine Station is regarded as a place of national significance. Controlled public access has allowed it to become available to anyone interested in its history and setting.

Extensive restoration has been done by the National Parks and Wildlife Service permitting new, low-impact adaptive uses. The first and second class precinct buildings provide affordable conference and accommodation facilities with "authentic character". The hospital wards have been set up to resemble the way they once looked. The Asiatic and third class buildings are used to interpret their history.

The educational tours and ghost tours have become remarkably popular. The self funding facilities have proved profitable, grossing over $1 million annually. These activities, though limited, have made the Station readily accessible to the public. The Quarantine Station's annual open days have also given many the chance to visit the site.

The many who support and use the Quarantine Station oppose any form of commercial enterprise which would inevitably alienate the public from the National Park. Private control creates a perception of exclusivity and profit dictates commercial rates which would make the site unavailable to those who simply can not afford to visit.

3. Chronology

3.1 Overview 1984 to 1999

1984 Site transferred from Commonwealth to State Government - 57 hectares, 60+ buildings. The site was managed initially by the Quarantine Station Restoration Trust , then by National Parks & Wildlife Service.

1986 A conference centre facility and tours were established which gradually made the site self supporting.

1987 NPWS called for expressions of interest to lease the site. A Draft Conservation Plan prepared by NPWS

1989 Old Inns of NSW Pty Ltd preferred tenderer but went bankrupt.

1990 Tender process discontinued.

1992 Conservation Plan adopted.

1993 Expressions of interest again called for leasing QS - twenty submissions were received and four short-listed.

1995 Section 22 Committee established to advise Minister for Planning on future management of North Head

1996 Tenders invited from four short-listed companies. Tender Review Board established by NPWS. Manly Council represented by Sue Sacker, Mayor, and Dr. Peter Macdonald MP.

1997 Draft Plan of Management for Sydney Harbour National Park on exhibition February to May

August: tenders closed, after two extensions of time due to Section 22 Committee extended process. Two tenders received.

1998 October: Minister adopted Plan of Management for Sydney Harbour National Park.

31st May: Minister Allan announced that Mawland Developments Pty Ltd had been selected as preferred tenderer

17th August: Manly Council resolved;

QS and surrounding land should be managed by NPWS and noted the lack of public consultation. They also resolved; QS is national heritage so State and Federal governments should fund maintenance and conservation programmes at the site.

Dr. Macdonald held public meeting.

1999 February: Sue Sacker and Peter Macdonald resigned from Tender Review Board.

Friends of Quarantine Station formed.

NPWS submitted 1992 Conservation Plan to Heritage Council to endorse. Heritage Council requested further work be undertaken on the Plan.

David Barr, MP and Manly Council met with Minister Debus and NPWS senior staff to seek a stop to tendering process. Request denied.

QS listed as endangered site by Australian Heritage Commission.

NSW Heritage Council rejected 1992 Conservation Plan. NPWS proposed to revise Conservation Plan.

3.2 Lease Process

Following is a flow chart of the prescribed process for the proposed lease arrangement:

Select preferred tenderer

Exclusive negotiation period

Minister signs Agreement to Lease

Lessee prepares Site Master Plan and Environmental Impact Statement [

Public Exhibition of SMP and EIS

Community consultation

Lease signing

Prepare detailed Conservation Plans

Submit Development Applications

Commence work and operation

At the time of writing, the Minister has not signed the Agreement to Lease.

4. The Conservation Plan  -  A Contradiction In Terms

4.1 An inadequate plan

The Sydney Harbour National Park Quarantine Station Conservation Plan, revised September 1992, is an inadequate basis for formulating a management plan for the next 40+ years. Not only is the Plan out of date in light of new information and recent changes, but the document is also flawed by a number of significant inconsistencies and omissions.

Clearly, the Conservation Plan was written as justification for the desired lease outcome arrangement, and coloured accordingly.

The Conservation Plan does not adequately take into account public submissions. A comparison between the draft Conservation Plan which went to public exhibition with the final amended edition shows they are identical with the exception of two minor additions to the schedule on page 67 and the inclusion of the curious concluding sentence on page 72 which states the Conservation Plan "does not specify a particular management structure to oversee the leasing and future conservation of the Quarantine Station". 

4.2 The cultural heritage

The Conservation Plan fails properly to consider the articles of the Burra Charter of Australia ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) to which the National Parks and Wildlife Service is committed as the policy and procedural basis for conserving the cultural resources vested in the Service under the National Parks and Wildlife Act.

The Conservation Plan sidesteps the Burra Charter's basic requirement that "management structures be set up through which the conservation policy is capable of being implemented". The Burra Charter requires that the conservation policy determines which uses are compatible (to a place). The Conservation Plan on the other hand permits the prospective leaseholder to determine the uses they consider to be compatible.

The plan does not provide conservation plans for each precinct of buildings. By deferring this important process to the lessee is a confusion of priorities. The proper process requires the completion of a conservation plan with definite policies for fabric, interpretation use, development and management.

There is an obvious abdication of the Service's public obligations under the Burra Charter which leaves the door wide open for the leaseholder to rule.

4.3 The natural heritage

The Conservation Plan provides a totally inadequate description of the geodiversity of the Quarantine Station, in particular the significance of the Pleistocene high level dune sands which occur on much of the site. The hydrogeology section makes no mention of the wetlands and source of the spring. The fragile soil landscapes are prone to wind and water erosion and need assessment prior to any intensification of use.

Whilst the Conservation Plan briefly describes the flora and fauna, the policy for protecting them and actions relating to them (section 8.2.9) are too broad usefully to define future actions. No mention is made of where threatened, rare and significant plant communities are located. The focus of the document is clearly on the cultural or built heritage of the area and the natural areas require the same level of attention in order to derive clear and unambiguous management goals regarding the natural heritage of the Quarantine Station. Inadequate concern has been given to the likely effect of intensification of use on the natural values of the place, surrounding headland environment and North (Sydney) Harbour Aquatic Reserve.

The plan also does not recognise the importance of the site for scientific research and teaching. The unique bio diversity is in such close proximity to the centre of a major international city. Many of the management goals (feral animal control, management of fire regimes, restoration of habitat for fauna, bushland regeneration) require research in order for appropriate management to be carried out. One of the major natural heritage values of North Head was that it was an area where research into the ecology of bushland remnants would result in findings relevant to the management of other similar habitat fragments.

4.4 Threatened species protection

The requirement to protect the colonies of the long-nosed bandicoot and little penguin are inadequately addressed. The principles for implementation (Section 9) do not indicate any strategies to do this, although the intention to undertake more detailed conservation plans is stated.

When the distribution of the vegetation and habitat used by the long-nosed bandicoots at the Quarantine Station is taken into account, the preservation of both the existing native vegetation and native fauna and their habitats may require that the entire area be reserved. Such limitations would be contrary to the planned intensification of use proposed in the Conservation Plan.

Given that the fairy penguin colony is the last surviving breeding colony on the mainland of NSW the comment that it is of local interest (p41) is hardly applicable. Adequate management and conservation strategies are needed which properly consider the marine and coastal environment as critical habitat.

4.5 A revised plan

In September 1999, the NSW Heritage Council which is required to endorse the Conservation Plan, sent it back for changes. The National Parks and Wildlife Service subsequently engaged a heritage consultant to address the inadequacies in the Plan for re-submission to the Heritage Council by December 1999. Regrettably, the Brief to the consultant and rushed time frame suggest that the process will be more expedient than genuine. Opportunity for public comment and input into the Conservation Plan have been greatly limited by the Service.

5. The Broader Context  - Sydney Harbour & North Head

5.1 Sydney Harbour Foreshore - A Vision

In August 1997, the Hon. Bob Carr, Premier of New South Wales, presented a vision statement about the Sydney Harbour Foreshores which he described as one of the most notable and renowned natural urban features in the world. He listed a number of guiding principles for determining the future use of publicly owned Harbour foreshore land. 

The Premier's first two principles are:

• Maximise public access to, and use of, land on the foreshore.

• Land made available for public access and use should be retained or placed in public ownership. 

To in effect hand over management of the Quarantine Station to private enterprise runs contrary to the Premier's vision for public access and use, and public control that goes with public ownership. 

The new State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) 56 for significant sites around Sydney Harbour includes the Quarantine Station. The SEPP requires master plans be developed for sites prior to development being approved. Whilst the National Parks and Wildlife Act may take legal precedence over the SEPP, wisdom suggests that the government should follow its own planning guidelines for such a significant heritage and cultural site. 

A master plan and environmental impact statement must logically precede any formal commitment to a long-term lease arrangement which is reliant on development in order to succeed. To reverse the appropriate sequence is folly. 

5.2 North Head - A Unified Strategy and Plan

The North Head Advisory Committee set up by the Minister for Planning under Section 22 of the EP&A Act and involving National Parks and Wildlife Service, The Department of Defence, Sydney Water, Australian College of Police, Manly Hospital, the Catholic Church, Manly Council and community representatives has met since 1995 in order to formulate an overall planning strategy for North Head.

The recommendations of the Committee are being prepared for the Minister for Planning. One of the key recommendations is that the Quarantine Station must be conserved and managed in relation to the rest of North Head. A piecemeal approach will threaten the desired outcomes for North Head as a whole.

The departure of the Federal Artillery School from North Head and the transfer of this land to Sydney Harbour National Park is of paramount significance not only to the future of North Head but also the Quarantine Station. The entire Defence lands, pursuant to the 1910 State transfer to the Commonwealth, still belongs to the NSW government and not the Commonwealth.

The Artillery School land occupies centre stage on the crown of North Head extending almost to the ocean cliff face. The area of the former defence site is almost three times that of the Quarantine Station. The facility contains a number of large, heritage listed brick buildings built around a parade ground, old munition structures, a museum and underground fortifications surrounded by natural bushland. The facilities are more suited to a number of adaptive uses than the Quarantine Station. 

The Department of Defence has written to the Section 22 committee advising that the Commonwealth has held and occupied the site since 1910 when the State transferred the site to the Commonwealth to be used for quarantine or defence purposes. Further to this, the 1979 Commonwealth and State Foreshores Agreement provides for all of the Defence land at North Head to be released to the State for inclusion in the Sydney Harbour National Park when it became surplus. The Department of Defence has reaffirmed its commitment to the re-transfer, excluding the area occupied by the Royal Australian Artillery National Museum.

Whilst the method of funding and implementation for the handover has not been resolved, the intention to make the land National Park was clearly stated by the Prime Minister, late last year. The Sydney Harbour Federation Trust is being set up to manage and remediate the defence sites around the harbour.

It is imperative that no commitment be made to a long-term commercial lease for Quarantine Station. Such action would be premature and lock the Government into contractual arrangements which could jeopardise desirable outcomes for both sites at North Head.

6. The Future

6.1 Viable Options

The Friends of Quarantine Station has considered advice that indicates the Quarantine Station does not need to be leased to a head operator in order to be commercially viable.

With the inclusion of the Artillery School land in National Park and a unified conservation and management approach for the whole of North Head a number of opportunities arise which would allow the Quarantine Station to operate under public management by the Service. The adaptive use of the Artillery School buildings in conjunction with the Quarantine Station would also preclude the need to build new structures at the Quarantine Station and therefore overcome a large measure of likely opposition from community, environmental and heritage groups alike.

It is not the purpose of this report to make definitive proposals for compatible uses and management structures for the combined facilities at North Head. Nevertheless, there is a clear public expectation of the two-fold objectives of public access and public control.

There is a strong view that National Parks and Wildlife Service needs to change its operational paradigm and core business to include management of historic sites and not just natural environment. The public generally mistrusts the motivation of large commercial operators and for good reasons. It is vital, therefore, that the Service develops an ability effectively to control its built and cultural environments rather than resorting to head lease arrangements. The Quarantine Station is a case in point.

With the prospect of transfer of more defence sites to the Sydney Harbour National Park, the Service should be setting in place now appropriate conservation and management plans which can be applied in the near future. These need to include standard procedures for sub-leasing which permit uses compatible with cultural and natural heritage sites.

The strong sentiments felt by the local and national community are an indication of a commitment to see a cooperative government and community approach work. A joint approach could utilise all the benefits of a Public Trust. One example is the Presidio Trust created to protect a former military post designated a National Historic Landmark in the Golden Gate area of San Francisco and set up by an Act of Congress in 1996 with the National Park Service. A local example is the Jenolan Caves Trust.

The opportunity has never before been so clear given the visionary statements of both the Premier of New South Wales and the Prime Minister to formulate bipartisan outcomes which involve the community to ensure that the Quarantine Station and North Head are protected and conserved for the public to appreciate.

6.2 FroQS submission to Minister

In June 1999, FroQS made a submission to the Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Robert Debus, to place on hold any approval or agreement for lease of the Quarantine Station until such time as:

1. The Conservation Plan 1992 is re-evaluated in the context of new information and developments.

2. The North Head Artillery School land is incorporated with the Quarantine Station into the Conservation and Management Plan.

3. The recommendations of the North Head Section 22 Advisory Committee (signed off by the National Parks and Wildlife Service) be included in planning for the Quarantine Station.

4. The Burra Charter articles for management and adaptation of heritage sites and principles of ESD (as defined by Environment Administration Act 1991) are adopted.

5. The NSW Premier's Statement for Sydney Harbour Foreshore, August 1997, and the new State Environmental Planning Policy 56 governing significant sites on the foreshore be acted on.

6. Appraisals by the National Trust, NSW Heritage Council and Australian Heritage Commission are carried out of the site.

7. Threatened species recovery plans for long-nosed bandicoot and little penguin colonies are implemented.

8. Issues of public access and interpretation are adequately provided for.

9. Alternative management options including a public trust and sub-leasing arrangements are fully investigated.

10. The public, once properly informed, is fully consulted.

Should a scheme proceed once these important issues have been addressed, any EIS should include impacts on terrestrial and submerged Aboriginal and other archaeological sites, flora, fauna, marine environment, traffic and water access, other parts of North Head and Manly community.

The Minister has not replied to the FroQS submission.

The Director-General of the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service has stated that he wants the Quarantine Station leased, long-term, and appears intent on achieving his goal.

But, there are many within the government and National Parks & Wildlife Service who are supportive of the need to keep the facility under public control. The wider community has not heard what the real issues are and needs to be informed.

The future of the Quarantine Station is not yet clear.

The revised Conservation Plan may change the agenda and result in new scenarios unfolding in time.

What is important though, is that the community remains committed to putting its energy and resources into ensuring that the future of the Quarantine Station as we know it, with all its natural and cultural values, character and ambience, is properly safeguarded.

7. Actions We ALL Can Take

7.1 Lobbying key people

An avalanche of letters or faxes is an effective lobbying tool. You can use any material from this document in your letter. A telephone call is even more effective. Even if you can't reach the person directly, speak to their chief adviser or secretary and request that your call to be diarised. Lobby:

The Hon. Bob Carr,

Premier of NSW

Level 40 Governor Macquarie Tower

1 Farrer Place, Sydney, NSW 2000

Phone 9228 5239 Fax 9228 3935

The Hon. Robert Debus,

Minister for the Environment

Level 19, Roden Cutler House

24 Campbell Street, Sydney NSW 2000

Write to your own MP if you are not in Manly. 
Even though QS is not in their electorate, it is of State significance.

Mr. Brian Gilligan


NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service

43 Bridge St, Hurstville NSW 2220

Phone 9585 6444 Fax 9585 6555

Mr. Max Player

Mawland Developments Pty Ltd

11 Albany St, Crows Nest NSW 2065

Phone 9437 0300

7.2 Ideas for letters

You do not need to be an expert! Write about your thoughts:

• What the Quarantine Station mean to you personally and how you have used the facility.

• Why you believe QS needs to remain in the control of the public.

• What you feel about a long-term lease to private enterprise.

7.3 Spreading the word

There are many, many things you can do:

• Copy this kit or parts of it and send it to your friends

• Tell others all about Quarantine Station

• Write articles for journals & newspapers

• Include QS on the agenda of your club, society or precinct forum for discussion

• Call talk back radio stations.

• Invite FroQS people to speak at your group or function

• Read and make a comment on the revised Conservation Plan

• Ring QS and book a tour or conference Phone 9977 6522 - this helps support the viability of the Quarantine Station

• Protest to Mawland companies who run the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School

7.4 Reaching Cyberspace

There is a world full of people out in the universe of computers! Many will be interested in the Quarantine Station for personal, heritage, research, environmental or political reasons.

Our QS is the best example of an intact quarantine station in the world and holds a distinguished place alongside other famous sites such as Ellis Island in New York and Grosse Ξle in Quebec.

If you are on the Internet, spread the word about QS around.... all over the world:

• Email everyone you know

• Email your relevant news groups

• Create a link from you own Web site to this FroQS Web site.

Or publish your own QS story by emailing: editor@manlyquarantine.com

7.5 Helping the cause

• Join Friends of Quarantine Station

PO Box 577 Balgowlah NSW 2093

Subscriptions: Individual $20,

Family $30, Unwaged $10

• Make a donation to FroQS

• Join FroQS Committee and activities: Call Nina 9949 4112 or Sue 9948 1614

• Visit Manly Environment Centre

41 Belgrave Street, Manly NSW 2095

Phone 9976 2842

• Buy and wear the FroQS T-shirt available at the office of David Barr, MP

35 Sydney Road Manly NSW 2095

Phone 9976 2773

This page was created 9th December, 1999, by Judith Bennett, Friends of Quarantine Station, and was last modified 09 December, 1999