Queenslanders Move to Save Cairncross Naval Graving Dry Dock in Morningside

Cairncross Naval Graving Dry Dock
Photo Credit: Google Maps

Attempts to stop plans to remove the Cairncross Naval Graving Dry Dock, a World War II facility in Morningside, have been gathering steam as more people say they want the site added to the Heritage Register.

Nikki Archer, an activist based in Gold Coast, and architectural historian Marianne Taylor are working with a group to help save and protect the Cairncross Naval Graving Dry Dock from future redevelopments. 

It comes as Lendlease filed a DA A006123190 on 10th October 2022 to carry out operational works to fill the dry docks and prepare the site for the River Gateway Neighbourhood Plan, which includes no provisions to save the retain and protect the facility. 

Bulimba East Development Pty Limited currently owns the land where the dry dock exists and has given its consent to the developers. 

Photo Credit: DA A006123190/BCC
Photo Credit: DA A006123190/BCC

Absence of Heritage Protection Explained

Ms Archer believes that the government is aware of the site’s cultural and historical significance to Australia but was not proactive in preserving its heritage. Ms Taylor, on the other hand immediately filed a request to Brisbane City Council to add the dry dock to the Queensland Heritage Register. 

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“How is this not already on a heritage register? Great question! It seems it used to be on the BCC Heritage Overlay but has since been removed. It is not on the Queensland or any National Registers and as it is now privately owned, there should be no reason it couldn’t be,” Ms Taylor outlined on her Facebook Page, The House Detective, where she also encouraged locals to file their objection to the development application.

“I don’t normally get involved in these 11th hour protests, but this is too big and too important to ignore!” 

Ms Taylor and Ms Archer’s campaign has the support of the Friends of the Heritage Movement. 

Peter Lawler, a member of the group, believes that there were never any attempts to save the site because no one thought of the property’s potential redevelopment until now. The locals believe that the dry dock could be turned into an educational site for both residents and tourists, especially among the students, who should learn more about the history of Brisbane and its contribution to the world. 

Despite the objection, Lendlease said it will be working with stakeholders on the options for the dry dock.

History of the Cairncross Naval Graving Dry Dock

The Cairncross dockyard is one of the country’s largest graving docks and was built in late 1942 after the bombing of the Darwin dockyard during World War II. It was built at a remarkable speed with more than 1,000 workers employed and working 24/7 to complete the facility.

 Cairncross Naval Graving Dry Dock
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The dockyard was ready for the first ships by June 1944. Until May 1946, 128 ships from Australia and the Allied Forces were serviced at the dockyard, which was capable of receiving vessels “800 feet long, with an 80 foot beam and a draught of 32 feet,” including aircraft carriers, merchant ships, tankers, destroyers, and submarine tenders.

Cairncross Dockyard
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The government closed the dockyard in 1987 but was re-opened by a private consortium in 1995. It has been private property since then. In 2016, the Forgacs Group sold the 14-hectare property for potential housing redevelopment and rezoning.

Engineering Australia considers the dockyard as an Australian engineering heritage