Australian Heritage Commission, 2000
The condition of the National Estate as at 30 June 2000
- State of the environment report
- Known losses
- Potential adverse impacts
- Legislative protection
- Historic heritage
- Indigenous heritage
- Natural heritage
- External territories
- Regional forest agreements
Section 43(2) of the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975 requires the Commission to include in each of its annual reports a description of the condition of the National Estate at the end of the reporting period. This chapter reports on the condition of the National Estate at 30 June 2000 and the initiatives undertaken during the year to ensure its long-term conservation.
The National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development, adopted by all Australian governments in 1992, called for the introduction of regular national state of the environment reporting to enhance the quality, accessibility and relevance of data relating to ecologically sustainable development.
Between 1994 and 1996 the State of the Environment Advisory Council, drawing on the expertise of approximately 170 of the nation’s leading professionals in the environmental field, produced the first Australia: State of the Environment report.
The Commission, along with other Commonwealth, State and Territory agencies, industry and community groups, made significant contributions to the development of the report.
New editions of the report will be produced every five years to ensure that the most recent and up-to-date environmental information is available to community, industry and government decision-makers.
The next report is due in 2001. The Commission is positioned to make a valuable contribution to the collection and analysis of natural and cultural heritage data for the report. This represents a significant commitment of resources by the Commission during the 1999–2000 financial year.
In 1999–2000 the following places were notified to the Commission as being lost to the National Estate. The condition of many of these places was brought to the Commission’s attention during the process of systematically upgrading information in the Register of the National Estate database. Where necessary, the Commission is taking steps to formally remove these places from the Register.
|Name||Location||Reason for loss|
|Hotham Uniting Church||Flemington, Victoria||Demolished 1999|
|Bloods Cottage||Box Hill, Victoria||Demolished 1999|
|Church of the Infant Saviour||Burleigh Heads, Queensland||Relocated 1999|
|Kelvin Grove Road landscaped precinct||Kelvin Grove, Queensland||Damaged 1997|
|Old Boulder Golf Club House||Boulder, Western Australia||Demolished 1999|
|Fimiston Fire Station||Boulder, Western Australia||Demolished 1997|
|Hotel Darwin||Darwin, Northern Territory||Demolished 1999|
|Administrator's House, Bagot community||Ludmilla, Northern Territory||Destroyed by fire 1999|
|Old Supreme Court||Darwin, Northern Territory||Demolished 2000|
|Railway Housing precinct||Alice Springs, Northern Territory||Last house removed 1999|
In 1999–2000 the Commission noted adverse effects in its advice on 149 referrals. This is the second occasion that the Commission has reported on this statistic. It is hoped that with ongoing reporting, this statistic will provide an indicator for potential adverse impacts on the condition of the National Estate.
Listing in the Register of the National Estate gives heritage places some protection through the obligations of Commonwealth agencies under the Australian Heritage Commission Act. Up to 30 June 1999 listing also made places of cultural significance eligible for financial assistance for conservation works through tax rebates and the NEGP. The program provided financial assistance for projects of national importance that identified, documented, conserved or promoted places of heritage significance. The Tax Incentive for Heritage Conservation scheme, administered by the Department of the Environment and Heritage from October 1998, continued to assist private owners of heritage-listed buildings and structures.
In the 1998–99 Budget, the Federal Government announced that from 1 July 1999 the NEGP and the Tax Incentive for Heritage Conservation scheme would be subsumed by a new grants program called the Cultural Heritage Projects Program, administered by the Department of Environment and Heritage.
Decisions affecting most heritage places are carried out under State and local government environmental, heritage and planning laws. Listing in the Register of the National Estate alerts the community to the presence of heritage values and assists community groups to work within State and local government frameworks to protect their local heritage. Local controversies about the fate of heritage places, as reported daily in the media across Australia, demonstrate that many Australians care about these places and want them well managed.
In November 1997 the Council of Australian Governments gave in-principle endorsement to the development of a National Heritage Places Strategy. This strategy provides an opportunity to improve the protection of Australia’s heritage and to clarify the roles and responsibilities of each tier of government. This will, in itself, improve the way we manage heritage places and provide greater certainty for those who own or seek to utilise those places.
On 12 November 1998, in his second reading speech introducing the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Bill 1998, the Minister for the Environment and Heritage indicated that the National Heritage Places Strategy should be concluded before future legislative reforms relating to heritage were given effect within the framework of the legislation.
The Minister for the Environment and Heritage also indicated that until new heritage legislation is passed, the Australian Heritage Commission Act will continue to be fully implemented.
It is expected that the National Heritage Places Strategy will be implemented through cooperative Commonwealth and State legislation. The reform of Commonwealth heritage legislation (the Australian Heritage Commission Act) is a key element of this environmental reform. The Commonwealth is committed to the development of a new heritage regime, including the enactment of appropriate legislation.
Following the introduction of the Heritage Amendment Act 1998 (New South Wales) on 2 April 1999, the New South Wales Heritage Council has been actively reviewing listings for the new State Heritage Register. The Heritage Council has also been encouraging State Government agencies to complete heritage registers of the items they own or manage, as required under section 170 of the Act. In September 1999 a new Heritage Act Regulation (New South Wales) was introduced covering minimum standards for maintenance and repair, as well as new fees and forms.
The Victorian Heritage Council and Heritage Victoria continue to operate under the Heritage Act 1995 (Victoria), with no major changes in the Heritage Council’s statutory functions. In addition, the Victorian Government is currently developing a guide for residential planning, to replace The Good Design Guide and VicCode1, due for completion and implementation early in 2001.
There were some minor changes to administrative sections of the Historic Cultural Heritage Act 1995 (Tasmania) to bring the Heritage Council’s timing for works approval to heritage places more in line with the timing for planning approval.
The Heritage Act 1990 (Western Australia) remained unchanged during the year. New draft heritage legislation was considered during the year but has since been reviewed and awaits further consideration by the State Government.
Cultural heritage conservation in Queensland continues to operate under the Queensland Heritage Act 1992 and the Cultural Record (Landscapes Queensland and Queensland Estate) Act 1987.
There has also been no significant change to heritage legislation in South Australia in 1999–2000, with the Heritage Act 1993 continuing to provide the framework for historic heritage protection.
There have been no changes to the operation of the Heritage Conservation Act 1991 (Northern Territory) or to the heritage provisions of the Land (Planning and Environment) Act 1991 (Australian Capital Territory).
All States and Territories have legislation that provides blanket protection to Indigenous archaeological sites. However, some other types of places significant to Indigenous people are not well protected.
Responsibility for administration of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 was transferred to the Department of the Environment and Heritage in December 1998.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Bill 1998, which will replace the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984, was introduced into the Federal Parliament in March 1998. The Bill seeks to reduce duplication between Commonwealth and State and Territory laws by accrediting State legislation. The Bill provides for a discretionary mechanism for the Commonwealth to act where protection of places and objects of particular significance may be in the national interest. The Bill also provides for the appointment of a statutory Director of Indigenous Heritage Protection to administer the legislation when enacted.
The legislation has been debated and a large number of amendments have been proposed. These have still to be considered by Parliament.
Several States are reviewing, or have reviewed, their Aboriginal heritage legislation in anticipation of the passage of the Bill. They include South Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, Western Australia and Victoria. The outcomes of the reviews have not yet been announced.
Although the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975 covers historic, Indigenous and natural environment places, only the heritage laws in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory are similarly comprehensive. In all States, protecting natural heritage places relies primarily on a variety of environment protection, nature conservation, land-use and planning laws. Government-owned places may be protected legally by dedication as nature conservation reserves, national parks or as other public parks or reserves, as wilderness areas or as marine protected areas.
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 was passed by the Federal Parliament in June 1999. The objectives of the Act are to provide for the protection of the natural environment, especially those aspects of the environment that are matters of national environmental significance, and to promote ecologically sustainable development through the conservation and use of natural resources. The Act also aims to promote the conservation of natural heritage through biodiversity conservation and a cooperative approach with governments and the community. It recognises the role and knowledge of Indigenous people and biodiversity matters, as well as the implementation of Australia’s international responsibilities.
More generally, a framework for protecting natural heritage values across land tenures is provided by laws protecting endangered flora and fauna and native vegetation, or by State and local government land-use, planning and zoning laws or regulations. In the case of Commonwealth-owned places, natural heritage values are partly protected by Commonwealth obligations under legislation such as the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975 and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
Norfolk Island – The Kingston and Arthur Vale Historic Area.
The Commission has been working with the Norfolk Island Government and the Territories Office of the Department of Transport and Regional Services to assist the protection of heritage on the island.
This has included the development of a draft Memorandum of Understanding with the government of Norfolk Island on heritage cooperation. The draft was welcomed by the parties at the Commonwealth–Norfolk Island inter-government meeting held in June 2000. Key objectives are to assist the implementation of Norfolk Island’s heritage legislation, and to enhance cooperation in the conservation of heritage places.
Since the Commission assisted the preparation of the Christmas Island Heritage Review, DCPs and Development Guidelines (Godden Mackay Logan 1998), the document has been well received and used by the Christmas Island Administration and Shire Council. It has become a model for the development control guidelines for West Island (one of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands) being prepared by the Cocos (Keeling) Administration in association with the Commission.
Regional forest agreements continued to be the Government’s major mechanism for protecting the natural and cultural heritage values of Australia’s forests. The agreements represent the culmination of joint Commonwealth–State comprehensive regional assessments of the economic, social, environmental and heritage values of the native forest estate. This work is carried out under the 1992 National Forest Policy Statement that contained an agreed framework and process to make long-term decisions about forest use and management. Expected outcomes of the process include a national, comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system which will safeguard biodiversity, old-growth, wilderness and other natural and cultural values of forests, as well as optimal use and management of forest areas outside the reserve system. Overall, the aim of regional forest agreements, consistent with the Inter-Governmental Agreement on the Environment, is to reduce uncertainty, duplication and fragmentation in government decision-making and produce durable, cooperative agreements on the management and use of forests.
A regional forest agreement for the south- west forest region of Western Australia was signed on 4 May 1999. Although the Commission raised some issues of concern, it considered that the agreement provided an improved basis for the regional protection of National Estate values in the region through the following mechanisms:
- expanding the forest reserve system to (among other things) increase the protection of National Estate values in old-growth forest;
- considering the range and distribution of National Estate values when making decisions about conserving and managing forests;
- using agreed conservation principles to manage the National Estate;
- putting in place guidelines for managing cultural heritage in forest areas;
- improving consultation with Indigenous communities; and
- ensuring that interested parties can continue to access information collected about the National Estate.
The agreements will be reviewed every five years.
Broad agreement was reached with the Tasmanian Government about the areas to be proposed for listing in the Register of the National Estate under a regional forest agreement. Work is continuing on digitising boundaries and on documentation of places.
The Commission, as part of the Commonwealth team, contributed substantially towards regional forest agreements in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
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