A historic Port Hedland building will not have its heritage status downgraded to make way for a new Port Hedland Volunteer Marine Rescue base, with the Town opting to instead endorse an alternate site for the group. The site — Lots 55, 56 and 57 McKay Street, Port Hedland — contains one of just four original buildings left within the historic urban area of Port Hedland, and was the original State school for the town, built in 1906. With its distinct Northwest vernacular bungalow architectural style, typified by the elevated floors and verandas, the building is listed under the ‘grade B’ category of the Port Hedland Heritage Inventory — retain and conserve. However in recent months, Port Hedland Volunteer Marine Rescue — which has operated out of the building for the past 16 years — has sought to have the building downgraded to a ‘grade C’ heritage sight to make way for its demolition, and for it to be replaced by a new base for the group. It comes after a 2020 certified engineer inspection found the building to be “uninhabitable”, leading to a prolonged campaign by the group for funds to either rebuild the site or for an alternative site to be found. The group touted a $2.7 million funding goal, which for years went unanswered. In March 2023, PHVMR commander Zac Slaughter penned an open letter to stakeholders, warning that should funding not be found soon, the group could close down, with all responsibility for rescue operations to be coordinated from Perth. And despite years of silence from various industry and government representatives, the March letter did manage to draw support from the likes of mining giant BHP and the Pilbara Port Authority. “MRPH is pleased to announce we have received $900,000 from BHP and have a commitment of $200,000 from Pilbara Ports Authority, which adds to the $713,000 committed by DFES/State Government,” Mr Slaughter said in August. “Total funding secured is now $1.8m with a further $900k to raise to complete the project in full. “This represents a significant contribution from both stakeholders and notably, BHP was extremely quick to respond following previous coverage by the North West Telegraph.” At the time, Mr Slaughter said the next move was to address the heritage listing of the building. It drew criticism from community members, including former councillor and Visitors Centre manager Julie Arif — a long-term resident heralded for her deep historical knowledge of Port Hedland. “We have very few heritage buildings in Port Hedland,” she said. Ms Arif said the building was in good condition when the tenancy started 20 years ago but had since been allowed to fall into disrepair and that “someone must be held responsible for this as a category B listing”. She said the building should be raised to a category A heritage building rather than downgraded to a category C and that it would be better for a new facility to be built closer to the ocean. And it seems Ms Arif’s calls may have been answered, with the Town of Port Hedland council adopting the officer’s recommendation to not support the proposed downgrading of heritage status at the November 29 council meeting. An amendment to the officer’s recommendation also passed, which saw the Town support PHVMR to acquire an alternate site — lots 343, 344, 345 and 346 Kingsmill Street — for a new base of operations. The Kingsmill Street site sits on the Port Hedland foreshore, about 300m from the new Spoilbank Marina development.