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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Investing in our Natural Heritage

The Commonwealth's Environment Expenditure 1997-98
Statement by Senator The Honourable Robert Hill
Minister for the Environment
Environment Australia 1997

Chapter 9: Australian Heritage and Antarctica

Key Points
  • The Government is working on means for a more effective, consistent and enhanced national heritage conservation system for Australia, which removes gaps, reduces duplication and provides for increased access and involvement by the community.
  • The Natural Heritage Trust provides an extra $39.7 million to the year 2000-01 for management and upkeep of World Heritage properties.
  • In 1997-98, the management of World Heritage properties will be improved by the establishment of strategic plans and/or management structures.
  • The Government will continue, through the $61.3 million funding of the Australian Antarctic Programme in 1997-98, to place a major emphasis on understanding global climate change and protecting the Antarctic environment.

Under its National and World Heritage programmes, the Commonwealth seeks to protect those elements of Australia's natural and cultural heritage which are of value for this and future generations, on national and global scales respectively. In doing this, it gives particular emphasis to development of broad strategic policies and to cooperation with States and Territories and to wide consultation. Identification of wilderness and wild river areas is being given special attention. Research into, and management of, the sensitive environments of the Antarctic region continue to be a priority.

Funding for these programmes is set out in Table 9.1. This table includes Australian heritage programme savings of $800,000 over four years from 1997-98. These form part of the Government's fiscal consolidation strategy.

NATIONAL HERITAGE

The Commonwealth is working with State and local government and the community to identify and protect Australia's National Estate. The National Estate is made up of cultural and natural heritage places which have special value for our community. The Register of the National Estate is a list of such places (see Box 9.1).

Improving National Heritage Protection

A voluntary Australian Natural Heritage Charter, initiated by the Australian Heritage Commission, was released in December 1996 following two years of extensive consultation and development by a non-government committee. Its purpose is to assist individuals, conservation professionals, community groups and government make soundly based decisions on conservation of natural heritage.

Table 9.1: Australian Heritage and Antarctica - New Measures and Programme and Tax Expenditure Estimates

Image: Table 9.1: Australian Heritage and Antarctica

Programme and tax expenditure estimates include the effect of new measures.

- denotes nil; .. denotes not zero but rounded to zero; na denotes not available

(a) For 2001-02 and six year total expenditure see Table 1.3.

(b) Outyear estimates from 1997-98 will depend on limits which have yet to be approved.

(c) For the funding for Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Kakadu National Parks see Comprehensive Protected Areas in Table 3.1, and for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage property see Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in Table 8.1.

(d) Covers the total cost of operating the Antarctic Programme which has a major but not exclusive focus on environmental programmes.

The Commonwealth has been consulting widely on strategies and options to provide for a more effective, consistent and enhanced heritage conservation system for Australia. The aim is to remove gaps in the protection regime, reduce duplication and provide for increased access and involvement by the public, business and government.

Box 9.1: The Register of the National Estate

Australia's National Estate is all those natural, historic and indigenous places which should be kept for the future and which have aesthetic, historic, scientific or social significance or other special value for this and future generations. The Australian Heritage Commission compiles and maintains a Register of the National Estate. The Register now has over 11,000 places listed on it and helps educate Australians and alert them, particularly when making decisions, to places of heritage significance.

Access to the Register has been improved through establishing a comprehensive internet site. Current debate centres around the development of the Register as a comprehensive nation wide database with input from all levels of government and the community.

Proposals include:

These considerations are being made in the context of a review of Commonwealth/State roles and responsibilities for the environment by the Council of Australian Governments and a proposed review of Commonwealth environmental legislation (see Ch. 2).

National Heritage Coordination

The National Heritage Coordination (NHC) programme represents a major commitment by Commonwealth and State/Territory Heritage Ministers aiming for a more efficient and effective system of national heritage administration.

The programme's focus is on the historic environment. It aims to establish more cooperative systems of identification and management of Australian historic heritage in response to greatly changed heritage, social and working environments in Australia. Its goal is to develop a better knowledge about these places, and to care for them more effectively in partnership with the community.

The programme is long term, encompassing several projects. A three year strategic plan was developed in 1996 and consists of yearly work programmes between the Australian Heritage Commission and each State/Territory which are agreed bilaterally within the overall plan. A key element in the strategic plan is a yearly review.

Heritage Funding

In 1997-98 the Commonwealth will provide $10.1 million for the identification and conservation of the National Estate, which includes $1.3 million for the National Estate Grants Programme. This programme has a significant role in facilitating protection of the National Estate and has been refocussed on projects of national importance. The two key funding priorities are identification, conservation and promotion of nationally important heritage places, and facilitation of community involvement in heritage activities. Priority in the short term will be given to cultural heritage.

Tax Incentive for Heritage Conservation Scheme

This programme provides a 20 per cent tax rebate for expenditure on approved heritage conservation work to privately owned heritage listed buildings and structures. The rebate aims to stimulate and redirect investment by corporate, private and small business taxpayers towards the continued care and conservation of heritage listed buildings. It also encourages best practice conservation standards and stimulates tourism and employment in traditional trades. The cost of this programme to Commonwealth revenue in 1997-98 is estimated to be $1.9 million.

Heritage Properties Restoration Programme

The Commonwealth contributes to improved urban amenity, civic design and social infrastructure by restoring heritage buildings under the Heritage Properties Restoration Programme. Following on from the Commonwealth's 1996-97 funding assistance to the restoration of St Marys in Sydney, St Patricks in Melbourne, St Johns in Brisbane and the Church of Christ in Newcastle, a further $2.0 million is being provided in 1997-98 to continue the restoration work at St Marys, Sydney.

Heritage and Environment Programme

This programme seeks to:

The programme includes funding for diverse projects such as bush foods and medicinal plants, water and land management, reafforestation and permaculture.

Grants in Aid to National Trusts

The Commonwealth will provide $800,000 in 1997-98 to fund activities by National Trusts for the identification, promotion and conservation of Australia's cultural heritage.

Historic Shipwrecks Programme

The Commonwealth will provide $400,000 in 1997-98 for the Historic Shipwrecks Programme. Through this, the Commonwealth, in cooperation with the States, the Northern Territory and Norfolk Island, aims to conserve and protect historic shipwreck sites and associated material as a cultural resource for the nation.

Norfolk Island Penal Settlement

The Commonwealth will contribute $400,000 in 1997-98 for the maintenance and interpretation of the penal settlement in the Kingston and Arthur's Vale Historic Area on Norfolk Island. This is jointly managed with the Norfolk Island Government.

Commonwealth Owned Heritage

The Commonwealth owns or manages a large number of properties or areas of heritage significance (see Box 9.2). Public concern about the impact of government policy on prominent Commonwealth assets such as lighthouses, post offices and defence facilities led to a Committee of Review into Commonwealth Owned Heritage Property in April 1995. The aim was to provide a strategy for more coordinated identification, maintenance, use and/or disposal of the Commonwealth's heritage properties in recognition of their cultural, economic and social value to all Australians.

Box 9.2: Department of Defence projects

Defence spending on heritage protection and management is likely to be an important part of all activities affecting Register of the National Estate properties.

Some recent examples of projects which contribute to the protection and conservation of places in the Register of the National Estate include:

  • the Shoalwater Bay Aboriginal Cultural Site Survey which will help Defence to better manage and protect the Aboriginal cultural heritage values of the Shoalwater Bay Training Area; and
  • the Cockatoo Island Conservation Management Plan which is being prepared for Defence by heritage professionals as part of the disposal of the former shipyards and convict prison. The plan will draw together information on the variety of heritage values present on the Island to ensure that Defence decision makers have the best possible heritage information available. A similarly comprehensive conservation plan was completed recently for the Defence owned former migrant hostel at Bonegilla near Albury, NSW.

The Committee identified ways to improve their management through a strategy involving: explicit policies on conservation; establishment of an inventory of Commonwealth heritage assets; adoption of suitable management practices; a partnership approach for the care of heritage properties, aided by use of 'best practice' exemplars and adequate funding; and greater understanding of and commitment to conservation and community involvement in decisions affecting Commonwealth heritage properties.

The Government is preparing its response to this report.

WORLD HERITAGE

In signing the World Heritage Convention, the Commonwealth accepted an obligation to the world community to identify, protect, conserve and present World Heritage properties in Australia (see Box 9.3). Only the Commonwealth as a State Party to the Convention can nominate places to the World Heritage List. It has agreed to do this only in cooperation with the States and Territories and through public consultation.

Box 9.3: World Heritage properties

World Heritage properties are areas of outstanding universal cultural or natural significance which are included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Australia is a member of the World Heritage Committee which inscribes properties on the World Heritage List.

At present, there are 11 Australian properties on the World Heritage list. The Commonwealth is directly responsible for management of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Kakadu National Parks (see Ch. 3). The Commonwealth works jointly with Queensland on the management of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage property (see Ch. 8), and works with the States to ensure sound management of the other eight properties which are Lord Howe Island Group, Tasmanian Wilderness, Willandra Lakes Region, Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves (Australia), Wet Tropics of Queensland, Shark Bay, Fraser Island, and Australian Fossil Mammal Sites (Naracoorte/Riversleigh).

Management and Monitoring of Properties

The Commonwealth will provide $22.7 million for the management of World Heritage properties in 1997-98. This figure does not include ongoing funding for management of Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Kakadu National Parks, nor the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Property, funding for which is covered in Chapters 3 and 8 respectively.

Half of this funding, $11.7 million, will be provided from the Natural Heritage Trust. In all, the Natural Heritage Trust will provide an extra $39.7 million for management of World Heritage properties to the year 2000-01.

The Government is committed to further improving the standards of management of World Heritage properties.It seeks best practice management which meets international obligations and satisfies the varying local needs in Australia's World Heritage properties. Such management arrangements include Ministerial Councils, community and scientific advisory committees and management plans.

Progress towards best practice management will vary from property to property and be dependent on the implementation of individual management plans. The Commonwealth will, in partnership with the States and community interest groups, provide funding towards best practice including development of strategic management plans which give specific consideration to World Heritage values.

The Government places considerable importance on participation by all stakeholders affected by the listing of World Heritage sites. Hence, management arrangements for all properties will include community consultative bodies appropriate to their specific needs and channelling community input to ongoing management of each property.

For the Willandra Lakes property, $2 million will be provided in 1997-98 to enable the Commonwealth to meet the final year of its funding commitment to the New South Wales Government for the Willandra Lakes Structural Adjustment Package.

The Willandra Lakes Structural Adjustment Package arises from an agreement between the Commonwealth and New South Wales, matched on a dollar for dollar basis, and aims to address the socio-economic impacts on landholders in the Willandra Lakes Region World Heritage Property as a consequence of World Heritage Listing. It is a socio-economic package which aims to address issues of rural adjustment, Aboriginal aspirations and revisions to the World Heritage boundary.

In addition to meeting obligations under the World Heritage Convention, this measure is expected to achieve local stakeholder support for and participation in ongoing management of Willandra Lakes Region World Heritage property and improved public involvement in and understanding of World Heritage.

The Government is working to improve the efficiency and accountability of funding for management of properties. In particular the Government is examining options for cost recovery initiatives with the aim of meeting a greater proportion of total management costs from non-government sources.

The Government will give special support to improved monitoring of the condition of World Heritage values as an essential means of ensuring that the values are protected and to allow the Commonwealth to meet its international obligation. It will assist management agencies by providing the overall framework and guidelines for monitoring and reporting and by funding development of monitoring methodology and indicators.

Nomination of New Properties

In relation to possible new nominations, the Government will proceed to assess places having possible World Heritage significance, including some convict sites, the Blue Mountains in NSW, Purnululu in WA and Australian eucalypt forests. This will be done with the cooperation of the relevant State or Territory Governments. Only where there is sufficient support will the Commonwealth Government consider submitting areas for possible listing. The subantarctic island groupings of Heard and McDonald Islands and Macquarie Island have already been submitted to the World Heritage Committee and will be considered for listing during 1997.

WILDERNESS AND WILD RIVERS

The Commonwealth will provide $1.1 million in 1997-98 for programmes for the identification and conservation of wilderness and wild rivers (see Box 9.4). A four year Wild Rivers project has been conducted jointly with States and Territories and has been overseen by a committee with broad stakeholder representation.It will be finalised by mid 1997. Major products of the project are the national identification of wild rivers, a continental database of disturbance to river systems and their catchments, and a code of voluntary conservation management guidelines to assist managers to conserve wild rivers. During 1996-97 the 'Our Wild Rivers' National Photographic Exhibition toured around Australia to increase community awareness of the values of wild rivers.

The National Wilderness Inventory database will continue to be maintained and updated. It provides the technical basis for Government decisions on wilderness, including those made under the Regional Forest Agreements (see Ch. 3).The database also supports the identification of wilderness values for national estate assessment outside forests.

Box 9.4: Wilderness and Wild Rivers

Wilderness areas are large areas in which ecological processes continue with minimal change caused by modern development. Wild rivers are those whose biological, hydrological and geomorphological processes have been little disturbed by modern development.

Indigenous custodianship and customary practices have been, and in many places continue to be, significant factors in creating what non-indigenous people refer to as wilderness and wild rivers.

The Commonwealth is discussing with indigenous groups the application of wilderness concepts and management in Australia. During 1996-97, consultants completed market research into community understanding and attitudes towards wilderness and wild rivers. It has also commissioned research into the role of wilderness areas and wild river systems in nature conservation.

ANTARCTICA

Pursuit of the Government's Antarctic Programme objectives involves the development and implementation of environmental legislation for the Antarctic and subantarctic territories, including administration of permits, environmental impact assessment, protected areas management, comprehensive waste management strategies and environmental education. The programme is receiving funding of $61.3 million in 1997-98.

Most importantly the Antarctic Programme contributes to knowledge of the global environment through research in the Antarctic region, provides scientific knowledge for the effective management of the Antarctic environment, and increases Australia's influence in Antarctic matters through participation in international scientific programmes and by contributing to international scientific forums.

The Government will continue to support relevant research such as:

National obligations will continue to be met under the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, recognised as a world leading example of the precautionary approach to fisheries management.

In 1997-98 the Government is providing $300,000 as a new measure to assist the AAP Mawson's Huts Foundation to undertake conservation work on the huts established at Cape Denison by Sir Douglas Mawson during the 1911-14 Australasian Antarctic Expedition. The huts are a significant part of Australia's Antarctic heritage. The Cape Denison site is entered in the Register of the National Estate and is recognised internationally under the auspices of the Antarctic Treaty as a historic site.