Grid Reference Poley 1 - CU 903344 (tree)
Poley 2 - CU 942349
Poley 3 - CU 915356 (current)
Department Melbourne Water
Work Depot Warburton
Region Port Phillip East
Grading Primary
Elevation (ASL) 1240m
Height 35m
Construction Steel
Cabin size 3m x 3m
Public access to site No
In use since 194? - 1963 (tree tower)
1964 - 1993 (second tower)
1993 - (current tower)
CFA Region 13 - Central
Current Poley tower. All photos supplied by Andre Belterman, unless stated otherwise. Andre manned the current tower for 4 years from 1994 -1998

Poley tower is one of 4 Melbourne Water towers. It is situated in the O'Shannassy water Catchment, approx 100km east of Melbourne. Its viewing area contains most of the O'Shannassy, Upper Yarra, Maroondah and smaller tributaries (Armstrong, McMahons and Starvation Creek) catchments. The original Poley Tower was a tall tree on Mt. Ritchie. The towerman would go up for a look, then travel around for a while to look at various vantage points, and return to the tree for another look. This process would be repeated a few times per day. A steel tower (6km to the east) replaced the tree in 1964. The tower was 27m (90') high and was in operation until 1992, when it was replaced because of loss of viewing area due to tree growth. The current tower was erected 3km to the west, on Cold Water Hill. It stands 35m (115') tall and now covers also a greater area of State Forest, public and private land.
After it's completion, it was discovered that the lightning protection system was insufficient and work was undertaken to rectify the problem.
In 1994, most of the Melbourne Water Catchments became National Parks but Melbourne Water still has full control over management of the Catchments and the closed Catchment policy is still in force.
The running costs of the tower are shared with DEPI.
Melbourne is one of the very few cities in the world with a water supply coming from closed Catchments. This ensures Melbourne of very good quality drinking water. Some of the Catchments have been closed to the public since the start of this century and this results in beautiful Old Growth Forests of mainly Mountain Ash, (Eucalyptus Regnans).
To protect these forests from devastating bushfires, Melbourne Water have had their own Towers for fire detection. Early detection of wild-fires is vital for Melbourne Water. A wild-fire effects the harvest of water for many many years. In the first few years the water yield increases but is polluted and after the re-growth starts to take of, the water yield drops dramatically as the young eucalyptus saplings consume all the water they can get.

Poley tower is registered with the in the USA.

Please click on thumbnails for enlargements

Remains of 1st Poley Tower
in 1970
Supplied by Robin Fisher
Remains of 1st Poley Tower
in 2002
History rotting away
1st Poley Tower
in 2002
Remains of ladder
1st Poley Tower
in 2002
Inside 2nd Poley Tower
Supplied by
Robin Fisher
2nd Poley Tower
Birdseye view
Supplied by
Robin Fisher
2nd Poley Tower
in snow
Mapboard and old scope
inside current
Poley tower
Old scope
inside current
Poley tower

Thumbnails below are of the dismantling of the second Poley tower in November 2002.
The tower was sold to a gun club; they will use it to launch clay targets.

4 tonne
Top section
2.5 tonne
2nd section
3.5 tonne
3rd section
?? tonne
4th section
before dismantling

The tower had a detailed structure inspection in July 2008 and the tower's overall condition is considered to be very good to excellent.

Poley tower was in the path of the devastating Black Saturday (7th Feb 2009). Graeme Seppings reported a smoke sighting not far to the West of him. It's believed that it was a spot fire from the Murrindindi fire. Graeme evacuated the tower and just as well, because 90% of the O'Shannassy catchment was burnt. Although the site was burnt over, the tower was inspected after the fires and considered to be structual safe due to the large clearing around the base.

Remains of 1st Poley Tower
after the fire has passed
Clearing around the tower
From the air
Supplied by Cameron Padgham

A certified Fire Bunker was installed before the 2012-13 season. The bunker couldn't be burried due to the rocky ground, so rock was placed around the unit.
This will be an extra safety measure for the FLO. Melbourne Water hopes that the FLO will never find the need to use it.

We now have 2 photos on record claiming to be the original Poley tower, which was located on Mt Ritchie. As you can see, the trees look very different.
We are still researching which one is the correct one or if there were in fact 2 tree towers on Mt Ritchie. Please contact us if you can help.
The first photo has hoops around the ladder and the remains that are still on site, still have a few hoops around the ladder. These are visible in some photos above.
The 1st photo (with the hoops) was supplied via Graeme Seppings. The other photo, taken in 1962, was supplied by the Melbourne Walking Cub via Robin Bailey
and used with permission.

Poley tower was subject to a break-in in 2018 and vital equipment was stolen.

During the winter of 2020, Melbourne Water handed the management of their 4 fire towers to DELWP/FFM Vic. We still have not been supplied with the exact reason for this decision, but it seems a bit odd that a water authority hands over the management of these assets whilst they form an critical part of the fire protection of their main asset and reason for their existence: water. Initially, DELWP only accepted the Mt. St. Leonard and McVeighs towers and did not accept Poley and Strath towers until the ladder system has been changed, so they can be climbed without a harness. So, during the 2020-21 fire season, Mt. St. Leonard and McVeighs towers were managed by FFM Vic whilst Poley and Strath were still managed by Melbourne Water. We will keep an eye out for further developments

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