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Department of the Environment and Heritage Annual Report 2003-04

Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2004
ISSN 1441 9335

Review of performance: Outcome 1 - Environment (continued)

Protecting and conserving heritage

The Department identifies, protects and conserves natural and cultural heritage, including Indigenous and historic heritage.

In 2003-04, the Department worked to protect and conserve heritage by administering:

This section reports on activities funded using the Department's appropriation for its 'heritage' output. For more information about the Department's heritage protection activities see also:

The Heritage Division (including the former Australian Heritage Commission) contributed to this output.

National heritage laws


To identify, protect and conserve heritage of national significance.

New heritage system

The Australian Government's previous heritage system was established by the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975. At that time, it was Australia's only legislation protecting heritage. Today, all states and territories have heritage protection legislation and many local government bodies also identify and protect heritage.

In 1997, the Council of Australian Governments agreed that there was a need to rationalise the way the Australian Government and state and territory governments identified, protected and managed places of heritage significance. The Council accepted that the Australian Government's role should focus on protecting places of national heritage significance and on ensuring Australian Government compliance with state and territory heritage and planning laws.

Extensive consultation with government, non-government, industry groups and community bodies followed. The Department then helped to prepare and process Australian Government amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, which came into effect on 1 January 2004. The amendments:

Under the Act the impacts of a proposed action on listed heritage must be assessed if the Minister determines that the action is a 'controlled action'.

The legislation established the Australian Heritage Council, an independent body that promotes heritage conservation and advises on listings.

The changes also saw the winding up of the portfolio's Australian Heritage Commission, whose final report covering the period 1 July 2003 to 31 December 2003 is included in this annual report as part of the report on the operation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act nbsp;1999.

For more information about the new laws, visit

Identifying heritage places

The Department supported the Australian Heritage Council's assessment of 36 nominations for the new National Heritage List and 18 nominations for the new Commonwealth Heritage List.

The Minister listed on the Commonwealth Heritage List 334 Commonwealth places that were already on the Register of the National Estate.

The Department continued to work towards World Heritage listing of more of Australia's significant heritage places. This included responding to the International Council on Monuments and Sites, as that council assessed the Australian Government's nomination of the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens in Melbourne.

The Department also consulted stakeholders to identify possible future nominations including Indigenous rock art sites, convict sites, the Sydney Opera House, Ningaloo Reef, and an extension of the Fraser Island World Heritage property.

Managing heritage places

The Department continued to advise the Australian Government and state property managers as they developed management plans for Australia's World Heritage properties, to make sure they are consistent with the Australian World Heritage Management Principles. Currently, management plans are prepared under a range of Australian Government and state and territory legislation.

The Department managed Natural Heritage Trust national investment projects that provided funding for the management of World Heritage sites by state and territory governments:

Funding helped to protect and manage World Heritage sites by engaging managers, holding consultations with community, scientific and Indigenous committees, and implementing projects under agreed management plans.

The new heritage legislation provides for the preparation of management plans for National Heritage places in Australian Government owned or controlled areas and requires that the Government use its best endeavours to ensure a plan for managing National Heritage places in the states and territories. Heritage management principles were developed for the National Heritage List to provide the framework for future plans.

The Department advised Australian Government agencies about management plans and heritage strategies for places entered on the Commonwealth Heritage List. Many agencies alerted the Minister to management plans that had already been prepared for their heritage places. Other agencies sought advice from the Department about their responsibilities under the new legislation.

Promoting community involvement

The 'Distinctively Australian' programme underpins the new heritage system and supports the Government's legislation by engaging the community in identifying and protecting nationally significant heritage places. The Department worked to inform the community about the amendments and to promote involvement in heritage conservation.

International activities

Australia maintained its leadership, commitment and involvement in international activities to implement the World Heritage Convention. The Department continued to host the Asia-Pacific Focal Point for World Heritage. It also assisted Australia's regional neighbours to implement the World Heritage Convention, which will help to preserve globally significant biodiversity.

Under an agreement with the Chinese State Administration for Heritage, the Department continued to advise on master plans for two World Heritage sites in China: Mogao, and Chengde Imperial Summer Resort and Outlying Temples.

Historic shipwrecks

The majority of the more than 6500 wrecks identified in Australian waters are protected by the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976. The Department continued to administer the Act and to strengthen the protection of Australia's maritime heritage by developing a National Maritime Heritage Strategy. It also provided funding assistance of $390 616 to state and territory government agencies and to the Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology for community education programmes and publications, wreck investigation work, register development, and historic research in support of the Act.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage protection

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Heritage Protection Act 1984 protects and preserves areas and objects that are of particular significance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from threats of injury or desecration. The Act provides for last resort protection only - state and territory governments have primary responsibility for cultural heritage protection and have their own legislation, with the exception of Victoria. Aboriginal heritage in Victoria is protected by Part IIA of the Commonwealth Act.

In 2003-04, the Department processed 21 new applications to protect eight areas and three objects under the Act. Of the 21 applications, three were withdrawn. The Department also processed eight applications that were received in the previous financial year to protect two areas.

The Department administered two long-term declarations. A declaration for Junction Waterhole near Alice Springs has been in place since 1992 and will expire in 2012. A declaration for Boobera Lagoon, an important Indigenous heritage site in northern New South Wales, near Goondiwindi in Queensland, was issued on 1 May 2002 and expired on 30 April 2004. To ensure ongoing management of heritage issues at Boobera Lagoon, a reserve trust with majority Indigenous representation was established.

Protection of movable cultural heritage

The international trade in objects that people create or collect continues to increase. The Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 protects objects that, if exported, would significantly diminish Australia's cultural heritage. It also allows Australia to respond to requests by foreign governments to return objects.

Under this Act during 2003-04 the Department finalised 143 export applications covering 264 objects and prepared 23 letters of clearance covering over 7260 objects. See also the report on the operation of the Act in this annual report.


The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 was amended. With the development of the new National Heritage and Commonwealth Heritage Lists, the amendments will improve the protection of heritage significantly.

The amendments supplemented the existing protection for World Heritage sites under the Act. As at 30 June 2004, Australia had 15 sites on the World Heritage List (see Figures 6 and 7).

Figure 6: Area of World Heritage estate (1981-2003)

Figure 6: Area of World Heritage estate (1981-2003)

Figure 7: Number of World Heritage sites (1981-2003)

Figure 7: Number of World Heritage sites (1981-2003)

All World Heritage sites had full or partial management or strategic plan coverage. Compliance with the requirements of the Act for World Heritage management plans will be a key consideration as existing plans are reviewed and new plans developed.

Concerted efforts through 2003-04 led to World Heritage listing of the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens in Melbourne on 1 July 2004. This site has outstanding cultural value as the best surviving example of the international exhibition movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

In addition, the Department's initiatives continued to contribute to the protection of Australia's historic shipwrecks, Indigenous heritage and movable cultural heritage.

Heritage grants


To support the preservation and restoration of significant heritage places across Australia, and to support the National Trust's activities.


During 2003-04 the Department managed appropriations for administered items that supported heritage conservation.

Cultural heritage projects

The Department administered the Cultural Heritage Projects Programme to support projects that encourage private owners and local and community groups to conserve places of cultural heritage significance and to identify Indigenous places for conservation planning and heritage listing.

In 2003-04, the Minister approved grant funding of $3.5 million for 72 individual projects. As at 30 June 2004 these projects were being established, and the Department continued to administer 28 projects worth $3 million from the previous funding round of the programme. A total of 33 projects worth $1.2 million were completed.

Regional natural heritage

In February 2004 the Australian Government announced the Regional Natural Heritage Programme with funds of $10 million over three years to assist conservation of biodiversity hotspots in South-East Asia and the Pacific. Eighty project proposals were considered for possible funding and nine projects were approved involving funding commitments of $0.82 million over 12 months from June 2004.

Historic hotels

The Department managed funding for projects to preserve and restore rural and regional hotels across Australia with significant historic features. During 2003-04, funding was provided to 46 currently licensed historic hotels entered on an Australian, state, territory, local government or National Trust list for their historical significance, bringing the total number of hotels successfully supported over the life of this programme to 148. As well as conserving heritage, these projects provided economic and social benefits to regional communities through direct employment and by increasing opportunities for community activities and tourism.

National Trust

The Department managed funding for grants to continue support for the activities of the nine National Trust organisations.

St Paul's Anglican Cathedral

The Department managed funding to conserve the two southern spires of St Paul's Anglican Cathedral in Melbourne. Additional funding was administered to conserve St George's Cathedral in Perth.

Goondiwindi Serpentine Water Park

The Department managed funding to protect Boobera Lagoon by providing an alternative water sports facility. The project was completed in May 2004.

Historic events and famous persons

The Department managed grants worth $0.036 million to commemorate people, events and places of national historical significance.


The Department's administration of funds to support heritage conservation was effective. Administered funds supported the conservation of significant cultural heritage, the restoration of cathedrals in Melbourne and Perth, protection of Boobera Lagoon in New South Wales, the preservation of historic hotels, and National Trust activities.

Report on performance information

Tables 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21 report performance results against the indicators in the 2003-04 portfolio budget statements.

Table 15: Administer legislation protecting Australia's heritage (departmental appropriation)
Performance information Result
'Accuracy, timeliness and comprehensiveness of advice provided to the Minister for the:
  • Heritage component of the [Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999];
  • World Heritage Convention;
  • Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976;
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 and
  • Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986.'
Timeframes were met and policy advice met the Minister's requirements.
'Number of referrals received and amount of advice provided.'(a) Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, the Department received 26 proposed actions as referrals where World Heritage values were likely to be significantly impacted. These actions predominately involved tourism in, or adjacent to, the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics of Queensland. The Minister determined that six of these proposed actions were 'controlled actions' requiring assessment under the Act, and that a further proposed action was not a 'controlled action' if it was undertaken in a specified manner.

Relevant amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 came into operation on 1 January 2004. Advice was provided on 89 proposed actions on Commonwealth land (section 26, Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999). Progress was made on assessing 62 nominations for the National Heritage and Commonwealth Heritage Lists. No proposed actions were received for National Heritage List places. No places were entered in the list at 30 June 2004. (b)

(a) Applies to National and Commonwealth Heritage, and Commonwealth land.
(b) See also the report on the operation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 in this annual report.

Table 16: Promote community involvement with Australian heritage (departmental appropriation)
Performance information Result
'Degree to which target audiences are reached and engaged.' An extensive information programme was conducted for the new legislation. Target audiences included Commonwealth Heritage property owners, conservation bodies, state government agencies and industry groups. The public began nominating places for the National Heritage List. States and territories provided advice on proposed listings.
'Degree of public participation including nominations of places, changes in public attitude, and regional economic benefits from increased heritage tourism.' The public nominated 62 places for the National Heritage and Commonwealth Heritage Lists, and made four requests for emergency listing on the National Heritage List (the Minister decided that emergency listing was not warranted). Market research was commissioned to provide a benchmark against which future public engagement activities can be measured.
Table 17: Identify and manage Australia's heritage (departmental appropriation)
Performance information Result
'Degree to which the Australian Heritage Council and Minister are satisfied with the accuracy, timeliness and comprehensiveness of assessments of heritage significance.' Emergency listing and Commonwealth Heritage listing briefs were comprehensive, leading to Ministerial decisions within the statutory time frame.
'Degree to which management plans improve the condition of properties.' Management plans are the key mechanisms for improving heritage outcomes where there are recognised significant national and international heritage values. Plans are being developed for places entered in the National Heritage List and the Commonwealth Heritage List. All World Heritage areas either have a management plan or a strategic plan in place or being prepared. Additionally, some plans are being reviewed. Although it is clear that good management plans are essential for the proper conservation of heritage places, it will take a number of years to fully measure the improved condition of the properties.
'All heritage assistance projects (including Natural Heritage Trust grants) are assessed, managed and evaluated in accordance with Australian National Audit Office better practice guidelines, including appropriate monitoring of risk.' There were no adverse findings from an Australian National Audit Office audit of a random sample of approved projects.
'Number of properties assessed and management plans developed.' The Department assessed 334 Commonwealth properties on the Register of the National Estate for their Commonwealth Heritage values.
Table 18: St Paul's Anglican Cathedral (administered appropriation)
Performance information Result
'Remaining project (St Paul's Anglican Cathedral, Melbourne) completed and fully acquitted by 31 August 2003.' The project was completed and all funds fully acquitted.
'One contract.' The contract was finalised.
Table 19: Goondiwindi Serpentine Water Park (administered appropriation)
Performance information Result
'Project design is consistent with Government objectives.' Consistent with the deed of agreement, construction and fill was completed in May 2004.
'Remaining works are completed by September 2003 and project fully acquitted by 31 December 2003.' The project was completed by 30 June 2004. The reason the target date was not met was because water was not available on the target date to fill the water park.
Table 20: Conservation of rural and regional historic hotels (administered appropriation)
Performance information Result
'All projects funded on a matching basis and managed in accordance with agreed criteria.' The programme achieved its objectives of restoring 46'historic hotels during 2003-04 and stimulating local economies. All projects were funded on a matching basis with funding recipients and managed according to agreed criteria as set out in the contract.
'All remaining projects funded are completed by 30 June 2004.' All projects were completed by 30 June 2004.
Table 21: Grants-in-aid - National Trust (administered appropriation)
Performance information Result
'Payments made to support National Trust heritage initiatives in accordance with agreed performance requirements.' Nine National Trust organisations received $821 000 for work to:
  • promote the need for regional training programmes for cultural institutions through Regional Cultural Alliance;
  • contribute to new Australian Government heritage legislation;
  • develop research into issues associated with the guidelines for siting of wind farms;
  • improve management of heritage places, including those in the National Trust's care;
  • train and develop trust volunteers; and
  • continue to support trust activities and publications which assist and educate the community on heritage conservation practices, and to raise the profile of heritage amongst the community.
'9 agreements finalised by December 2003.' The agreements were finalised by January 2004 - the slight delay was due to delays in holding National Trust annual general meetings.
Table 22: Pricing information for Tables 15 to 21(a)
Appropriation Estimated price Revised price Actual expenses
Heritage - Output 1.5 (departmental) $9.731 million $17.033 million $17.204 million(b)
St Paul's Anglican Cathedral (administered) $0.050 million $2.550 million $2.550 million(c)
Goondiwindi Serpentine Water Park (administered) $0.150 million $0.530 million $0.530 million(d)
Conservation of rural and regional historic hotels (administered) $0.543 million $1.138 million $0.808 million(e)
Grants-in-aid - National Trust (administered) $0.821 million $0.821 million $0.821 million

(a) See also the summary resource tables at the end of this 'Review of performance'. Information about St George's Cathedral in Perth and the Regional Heritage Programme is shown in those tables
(b) The difference between the estimated and actual figures arose because the Australian Heritage Commission was abolished on 31 December 2003. Its expenses and revenues for the remaining part of the financial year were included in the Department's expenses and revenues.
(c) In the 2004-05 Budget, the Australian Government granted an additional $2.5 million for further cathedral conservation works, with the money fully disbursed in 2003-04.
(d) Administered appropriations unspent at 30 June 2003 were rephased from 2002-03 to 2003-04 to enable final payments to be made on this project. These final payments had been delayed due to the drought.
(e) Progress with some of the grants during 2002-03 was slower than expected. This money was rephased into 2003-04 to enable grant commitments to be met.

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