Natural and Cultural Heritage Theme Report
Australia State of the Environment Report 2001 (Theme Report)
Lead Author: Jane Lennon, Jane Lennon and Associates Pty Ltd, Authors
Published by CSIRO on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2001
ISBN 0 643 06752 3
It is envisaged that the Commonwealth's new heritage regime will be implemented through legislation which will:
- amend the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) to protect and manage places of national heritage significance (new Part 3 trigger);
- establish the Australian Heritage Council; and
- respond to the Schofield Report (1996) by including provisions to protect Commonwealth heritage places through the EPBC Act.
Legislation will provide for a list of places of outstanding significance to the Australian community in that they are symbolic, exemplary and/or unique examples, of the highest order, representing or demonstrating designated themes of national importance. This will be known as the National Heritage List. Places on the List will have natural, Indigenous or historic heritage values of national significance.
The legislation will also provide for a list of places in Commonwealth ownership or control. This will be known as the Commonwealth Heritage List. The proposed Australian Heritage Council will provide advice to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage on listing and protecting places on the National Heritage List and the Commonwealth Heritage List.
National heritage places will be protected consistent with Commonwealth constitutional powers. Plans accredited by the Minister for the Environment and Heritage will provide protection and management arrangements for a national heritage place which is partly or wholly on State land. Conservation agreements may be arranged between the Minister and landowners for national heritage places on privately owned land. Management plans will be required by the new legislation to be in accordance with national heritage management principles as set out in Regulations to the Act.
Technical or financial assistance for the protection or conservation of national heritage places may be available.
The Minister will be obliged to table in Parliament a review and report of the National Heritage List every 10 years. The report will cover:
- the number of places on the National Heritage List;
- any significant damage or threat to the national heritage values of those places;
- how many management plans have been made or are being prepared, how effectively the plans have been operating; and
- the operation of any conservation agreements that affect national heritage places.
Monitoring and reporting are to be included in management plans and made a condition of any accreditation agreement.
Commonwealth Heritage List places will be protected under Part 3, Division 2 of the EPBC Act which:
- prohibits a person from taking an action that has, will have or is likely to have a significant impact on the environment, including heritage value(s), on Commonwealth land; and
- prohibits the Commonwealth from taking an action that has, will have or is likely to have a significant impact on the environment, including heritage value(s), anywhere in the world.
The Register of the National Estate may be used to indicate whether a place has heritage significance for the purposes of the EPBC Act. The Register will also remain as an information resource on the Australian Heritage Places Inventory.
After many years of circulating discussion papers for general comment, the release of the Schofield Report (1996) into Commonwealth owned heritage property management, meetings of State and Commonwealth heritage officials and specific issue meetings, the framework for this new regime for heritage protection has been released. It represents the greatest overhaul of heritage protection since the advent of the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975.
The recent report of the Senate Committee's inquiry into the three Bills (Parliament of Australia, Senate Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee, 2001, see http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/ecita_ctte/hert2000/ ) is currently being considered by the government.