Water Rats: articles

Stay the night on Water Rats island

Goat Island has been the home of convicts, used to store gunpowder, for shipbuilding, a Midnight Oil concert, new year's eve parties, and as a location for filming the TV series Water Rats.

Now, says the Environment Minister, Ms Allan, it is about to become a mecca for tourists in the lead-up to the Olympics.

The Government proposes injecting $10 million into renovating the island, and announced yesterday it was looking for investors to help develop the harbourmaster's cottage and adjoining buildings to create a restaurant and guest house where tourists will be able stay for the first time.

The island boasts some of Sydney's finest views, and was recently opened to the public by Sydney Ferries. Work on the island will be partly funded by leasing its shipyard, which the patron of the Defenders of Sydney Harbour Foreshores, Mr Tom Uren, described as another important step towards making the island part of a "working harbour".

The man known as "Mr Goat Island" is Mr Robert Bird, the Sydney district operations manager for the National Parks and Wildlife Service who lived on the island for four years and has been actively involved in its restoration.

Yesterday Mr Bird said a quarry had been established on the island in the 1830s, worked by about 200 convicts.

Towards the end of the 19th century the island became a quarantine station for people affected by the bubonic plague. Later it was used as a gunpowder magazine, and later still as the headquarters of the real water police.

He said one of the island's more intriguing stories involved that of a paymaster who was murdered there last century.

It was reported that thousands of golden guineas went missing and the popular theory of the time was that the coins were buried on the island. The discovery of coins dating to 1813 led to speculation that there could be more. But potential treasure seekers should be warned that National Parks rangers will be keeping a close watch for any unauthorised digging.

By Andrew Clennell
October 15, 1998
Sydney Morning Herald