Natural and cultural heritage
Jane L. Lennon
prepared for the 2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee, 2006
This section comments on responses to conserve heritage, including funding for heritage and heritage legislation changes to meet pressures and reflect changes in approaches to heritage protection and conservation.
The Natural Heritage Trust (NHT) was established by the Australian Government in 1996 to help restore Australia’s environment, following the on-ground work undertaken by Landcare. It is the largest financial commitment to environmental action in Australia's history.
By 2004, $1.4 billion had been invested in the NHT and related programmes for more than 11 900 projects, involving an estimated 400 000 Australians. The extension of funding to 2007 has resulted in its transition to a regional delivery model that concentrates on implementing the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality (NAP) to tackle natural resource management issues at a landscape scale. Although not specifically targeted at cultural heritage in those landscapes, it is hoped that cultural heritage will be conserved as part of the overall strategy. There have been variations over the reporting period in the operational budgets of most public land management agencies despite NHT assistance for off-reserve conservation. The Courier Mail (Brisbane) reported on 6 May 2005 that Kakadu National Park has a budget of $10.18 per hectare whereas the Cape York parks have a budget of $1.30/ha dropping to $1.20/ha from 1 July 2005.
Figures for funding the management of identified specific natural heritage places over the reporting period are difficult to assemble. Protected areas, including World Heritage properties, may be seen as a broad surrogate. NHT funding for World Heritage management from 1996–97 to 2003–04 was $94.7 million, of which more than two-thirds went to two properties: the Wet Tropics and the Tasmanian Wilderness. Funding for the four World Heritage properties managed by Commonwealth agencies (Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu National Park, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and Heard and McDonald Islands) comprised about 89 per cent of the total Commonwealth budget for managing World Heritage properties.
By 2002, the area of protected land in Australia had increased to more than ten per cent or 77.5 million hectares managed in 6755 protected area reserves. In 2001, there were an estimated 163 million hectares of native forest in Australia. More than 12 per cent of this forest was in nature conservation reserves (National Forest Inventory database).
Regional Forest Agreements were entered into between the commonwealth and state governments to guarantee access to forest resources and to set up an adequate, comprehensive and representative reserve system for the biological diversity of Australian forests. As part of the process, places of heritage significance were identified and assessed. Five agreements led to an increase of about 1.7 million hectares of forest area being included in conservation reserves between 1997 and 2002.
In 2000, a new category of Indigenous Protected Areas was established and, at March 2005, there were 19 Indigenous Protected Areas, totalling 13.2 million hectares (Figure 2). They ranged in size from the 9.8 million hectares of Ngaanyatjarra (Western Australia) to 1270 hectares in Chappell and Badger Islands (Tasmania). Indigenous Protected Areas now account for 18 per cent of Australia’s protected areas. Traditional and ongoing Indigenous knowledge is increasingly accepted alongside scientific information as a valid and necessary information input to biodiversity management. This new development also recognises the custodianship of Australia's biodiversity by Indigenous peoples.
Increased interest has been shown by non-government organisations in acquiring or managing land for nature conservation so they can work towards regeneration of vegetation cover and habitat restoration for endangered species, such as the eastern barred bandicoot (Perameles gunnii) at ‘Mooramong’, a National Trust farming property in western Victoria (Heritage Victoria 2003). Groups supported by subscribers like Australian Bush Heritage have purchased remnant habitats and threatened ecosystems to supplement government efforts in national parks; Australian Bush Heritage now manages 18 reserves across Australia. World Wildlife Fund, Birds Australia, Trust for Nature (Victoria), The Nature Conservancy and various private foundations all manage land for nature conservation. Some of this is adjacent to national parks such as Carnarvon Gorge (Queensland) and some is remnant threatened ecosystems.
Trends are as follows:
- Extension of the National Heritage Trust will continue to support on-ground natural heritage conservation works, although the impact of this on condition of heritage places has not been assessed.
- There has been an increase in the area and number of protected area reserves—national parks, Indigenous Protected Areas—but declining operational budgets.
- There has been an increase in private conservation reserves.
Total funding dispersed from the Commonwealth’s Cultural Heritage Projects Program from 2000–01 to 2005 is $10.6 million, which includes $1.0 million for Indigenous projects. With the establishment of the new heritage system in 2004, Commonwealth funding is now applied mainly to the National Heritage List and Commonwealth-owned properties. The National Heritage Investment Initiative is budgeted to provide $10.5 million between 2005–06 and 2008–09 to provide financial incentives for restoration and conservation of places of national significance (PC 2005, pp. 32, 49). The lack of Commonwealth funding for historic heritage conservation in comparison to that for natural and Indigenous heritage has been commented on consistently by the National Cultural Heritage Forum and National Trusts.
In considering responses to conserving historic heritage places, the amount of development applications and referrals to state and territory heritage agencies should be considered; some annual reports indicate the large volume of such work in attempting to protect the heritage values of places. In New South Wales in 2003–04, 226 applications for significant changes to heritage places were processed, including 63 archaeology excavation permits and 70 development applications (an increase of 35 per cent since 2002–03). Some 165 exemptions for minor works and 79 archaeological exemptions were granted (a 51 per cent increase since 2002–03). In Western Australia there were 775 development applications referred to the Heritage Council. In Victoria, there were 41 archaeological consents in 2003–04 as the amount of survey work has doubled over the last four years. The number and nature of approvals being given to alter and demolish places is between 400 and 500 permits each year for 2000 places on the Victorian Heritage Register, which shows that these places are being used and altered at an average rate of about 25 per cent each year. While some of the permits are for very minor things, the majority are for major works. The Heritage Division of the Australian Department of Environment and Heritage has had 311 projects referred to it between January 2004 and May 2005 for comment on protecting heritage values under provisions of the amended EPBC Act (David Young, pers. comm.).
In response to the SoE2001, which found that there was no comprehensive information available on the condition and integrity of Australia’s historic heritage, the EPHC established a taskforce in May 2002 to examine incentives and other policy tools to promote heritage conservation. Its February 2004 report, Making Heritage Happen (EPHC 2004), examines 11 main tools: tax incentives, grants and loans, planning incentives and other planning instruments; heritage agreements; revolving funds and conservation trusts; encouraging use of heritage properties; technical assistance; labour and volunteers; recognition and promotion; client and customer relationships; and government to government assistance.
The report noted that the precise rate of demolition occurring nationwide in Australia cannot be stated with confidence. Even so, based on local government evidence, the ‘continuation of current trends could lead to the loss by 2024 of 10–15 per cent of the heritage places that are extant in 2004’. Australia’s public investment in incentives for historic heritage conservation compares unfavourably with many countries, particularly in North America and Western Europe (EPHC 2004, pp. 2, 39).
Recognising the disparity between the policy framework and incentives for the conservation of natural heritage and that for built historic heritage, the Australian Government in April 2005 requested the Productivity Commission to undertake an inquiry into conservation of our historic built heritage places and report back within 12 months. The wide-ranging inquiry examined policy and programme approaches. The substantive and commercial value of heritage places to the Australian economy has not been adequately analysed. While the wider community needs to feel that they own this ‘resource’, they also should be aware that it has sustainable worth in this neo-economic rationalist era, and that further diminution of the aesthetic, iconographic, educational, community, research and commercial values is essentially short-changing a distinctively Australian asset.
The level of investment in heritage conservation goes well beyond the funds delivered by government programmes and includes a substantial level of private investment. Heritage Victoria collects data on the estimated cost of works at the time it receives applications for permits, but this has never been aggregated into a reportable form. The Productivity Commission noted that ‘information is not readily available, nor easily discernible … for the financial value of the heritage estate and the value of works undertaken on heritage properties. There are either large gaps in the coverage or the data come with much qualification’ (PC 2005, p. 35). Its survey of local government showed that around 50 per cent of responding councils (about 315) provided assistance, ranging from 15 per cent of councils in Queensland to more than 80 per cent in New South Wales, and that free heritage advisory services and grants were the main form of assistance (PC 2005, pp. 34, 232–6).
Choice modelling showed that people are willing to pay a significant sum for improved heritage outcomes in Australia; a scenario involving a measured tightening of development controls and an increase in the number of heritage listings yields a willingness-to-pay of $105.90 per person per year. When aggregated to the national population aged 18 years or older, this (gross benefit) value equates to $1.6 billion per year (The Allen Consulting Group, 2005, pp. ix–x).
|NSW||Heritage Incentives Program: $2.4 million per annum
Heritage Asset Maintenance Program: $2 million
Centenary Stonework Program: $4.5 million, plus contributory funding by occupying agencies of $2 million
|Victoria||Capital works for conservation of heritage places: $4.5 million allocated for 2003-05*
Heritage places ‘at risk’ fund: $250 000 for urgent conservation works to 14 places in 2003–04
‘Hands on Heritage’: $30 000 grant to Conservation Volunteers Australia for assistance to owners of 28 heritage places, equivalent to 971 days of support
|Tasmania||Public historic sites (excluding Port Arthur) funding ($1 326 000 expended from 2001–02 to 2004–05); Heritage Council Heritage Fund|
|South Australia||May 2004: additional $2.9 million over next four years for local heritage, review and rationalisation of management of 42 state-owned heritage buildings currently cared for by the National Trust (SA), and for new heritage information and interpretation programmes|
|Western Australia||Grant funds: averaged $435 000 from 2000–01 to 2004–05, included 64 low interest loans to 20 participating local councils and 36 interpretation grants|
|Queensland||No Community Cultural Heritage Incentive Program after 2003.|
|Northern Territory||From 2004–05, the Northern Territory government has provided $1.0 million per annum for repair and maintenance of government-owned heritage places|
* This programme builds on the highly successful Victorian Public Heritage Program of 1999–2003, in which overall investment has been three times the amount provided through the programme.
Source: Annual reports of state and territory heritage agencies
Trends are as follows:
- There has been a decline in Commonwealth historic heritage funding compared with funding through the Natural Heritage Trust. This is not appropriate given the increasing overlap of natural and cultural values being recognised by community stakeholders, who are managing places at a landscape scale.
- Funding available in all categories is grossly insufficient for the demand: less than one fifth of the required amount was available in Queensland since 2000 (EPA 2003) and the New South Wales Heritage Incentives Program is typically oversubscribed by a ratio of 12:1.
- The number and amount of grants increased in New South Wales, while Victorian Government annual allocations decreased from $5 million in 2000–01 to $4 million in 2003–05 and $2 million in 2005–06.
- An atmosphere of economic restraint within government has meant that heritage is being measured increasingly through its capacity to deliver economic outcomes. There appears to be a growing resistance to measures that might impinge on economic growth, as measured by the increasing number of ‘permits to destroy’ that were issued by state and territory agencies—most in urban renewal or pipeline developments—from 20 in 1995–2000 (in all states?) to 124 in four states only in 2004–March 2005.
Since 2001, Victoria has allocated $2.1 million annually to community-based programmes for Aboriginal cultural heritage management and this has ensured Indigenous involvement. In March 2005, the Tasmanian government handed back to Indigenous ownership two long-contested islands in Bass Strait. Western Australia doubled funds to heritage agencies for Indigenous places to $2 million during the reporting period. Joint management, direct ownership, leaseback and hand-back arrangements have all increased.
Indigenous land use agreements (ILUAs)—voluntary agreements about the use and management of an area of land or waters made between one or more native title groups and other parties, such as miners, pastoralists and governments (Godden and Dorsett 2001; Lane 2001)—have increased steadily from six in 2000 to 135 in September 2004, 80 of which were in Queensland and 55 per cent included cultural heritage provisions. A register of ILUAs was established under section 199A of the Native Title Act 1998, containing information about each registered ILUA. Evidence indicates that strong agreements are emerging, involving ‘substantial financial payments … extensive and detailed employment and training provisions, provide for Indigenous involvement in environmental management and have cultural heritage provisions that exceed legislative requirements’ (O’Faircheallaigh 2004, p. 8).
The Indigenous organisations survey reported that involvement, particularly with Elders and outside agencies, was insufficient to ensure the protection of heritage. Consultation often did not happen at all, or it was too late. Funding was inadequate and uncertain for legal representation to fight inappropriate developments, for long-term planning of heritage maintenance and for cultural centres, computer databases to record heritage artefacts and sites. State heritage Acts were inadequate to protect Indigenous heritage. Victorian Government programmes allow ‘organisations to speak for country’, which the Yorta Yorta community believe is more appropriately the responsibility of the Elders Council and not ‘an homogenised group of people with no spiritual or physical connection to the country’ (Open Mind Research Group 2005, p. 19). This sentiment was echoed by a number of organisations. The ability of Indigenous communities to nominate sites, places and landscapes to the new National List through Indigenous reference groups is severely constrained by under-resourcing and structural marginalisation.
Most native title representative bodies considered their funding was too narrowly defined and failed to recognise the links existing between cultural heritage, land management and native title. Complementary opportunities were lost; for example, acceptable land use and Indigenous values could be documented together rather than the present separate determinations. The Kimberley Land Council believes that funding for Native Title is inadequate to resolve all the outstanding land claims and allow Indigenous communities to proceed with looking after their heritage (Open Mind Research Group 2005).
Existing and emergent Indigenous natural resource management, cultural heritage management and governance initiatives appear to now fall into state, territory and local government policy vacuums just as they are developing successful community and business plans (see AIATSIS 2004). Stage 2 has just begun profiling successful Indigenous local organisations. While the World Heritage co-management structures are to be applauded, they are small in content and personnel on the ground. Through regional agreements and ILUAs, industry has really undertaken co-management, training and capacity-building tasks seriously.
Repatriation of cultural material to communities from national museums and collecting institutions has continued. Indigenous involvement in managing cultural centres, keeping places, and heritage tourism has also expanded across Australia.
Trends are as follows:
- There has been increased involvement of Indigenous people in managing traditional lands through IPAs, ILUAs, park employment and working for resource industries.
- Cross-cultural training and training for site recording continued to increase.
- Problems persist with processes for community consultation in development planning applications and funding heritage conservation.
Conservation treatment offers the greatest potential for the development of strategies and solutions across sectors responsible for movable collections (archives, galleries, libraries, and museums). Environmentally controlled storage is required, particularly for collections in regions experiencing extremes of climate. Access to in-person, affordable expert conservation advice and training in conservation, with an emphasis on low-cost options for preventive conservation, is a priority in regions and in metropolitan small museums, galleries and local archives. The pool of Australian conservation experts needs to be replenished and maintained for these tasks.
Custodians of scientific collections highlighted the special conservation needs for scientific ‘type’ collections (which include genetic material). This is material of unique economic and scientific importance, not only in the context of heritage collections but also for the wider science research community and government. Neglect presents a high risk to the natural and cultural heritage of Australia (Deakin University 2002, pp. 104–5).
No detailed data were provided to analyse trends in funding for state, territory and local museums and archives, which are the major repositories of heritage collections. An aggregate report, Cultural Funding in Australia: Three Tiers of Government 2001–2002 (ABS 2003), shows the predominance of natural heritage funding ($900.7 million to national parks) over museum funding ($266.3 million).
State arts agencies generally fund the operation of their state museum and small regional museums, as well as providing outreach services and grants for conservation or exhibition programmes, which often used heritage collections. In some jurisdictions, funding data during the reporting period show wide variations due to completion of Centenary of Federation new building projects or new millennium building initiatives.
Trends are as follows:
- There is a continuing inability to delineate heritage objects and collections from the total holdings of most collecting institutions except public archives, which by definition are heritage collections.
- Conservation treatments for heritage objects and environmentally controlled storage in places of climate extreme remain a priority.
- Intangible cultural heritage conservation needs a focus by establishing policies and principles given issues of intellectual property, moral rights and commercialisation of the humanities and social sciences in academia.
There have been many changes to national, state and territory legislation during the last five years. The amendments to the EPBC Act and the Australian Heritage Council Act 2003 ushered in a new era in national heritage protection. Commonwealth agencies are now required to actively manage their heritage places and the creation of a National Heritage Places list provides an opportunity for all Australians to reconsider the heritage values in those places to tell a more layered and richer story about Australia.
In many states, changes to national park and protected areas legislation transferred state forests to park reservations, as shown in the statistics for increased areas of reserved lands. The trend to separate legislation for nature conservation from that for parks and reserve management continued, with new legislation in 2002 in Tasmania (Table 9).
|State or Territory||Legislative changes|
|ACT||The Heritage Act 2004 covers natural, historic, Indigenous places and heritage objects|
|Victoria||The Heritage Act 1995 was amended in 2004 to enable the listing of significant heritage objects in their own right; to reflect the ‘Protecting Our Suburbs’ policy by enforcing tougher penalties for those breaching heritage and planning permits
Since 2002 more active enforcement has led to successful prosecutions in the Magistrates Court
|Queensland||The Queensland Heritage Act 1992 was amended in 2003, and incorporated into the Integrated Planning Act 1997 to bring assessment of privately-owned heritage registered places into the Integrated Development Assessments System, to enable listing of precincts or streetscapes and to protect historical archaeological areas
Indigenous cultural heritage is now covered by entirely new legislation
|Western Australia||Draft Heritage Bill 2003 has been prepared but not released
Significant increases to penalties under section 57 of Indigenous heritage legislation for damage or disturbance to sites
|South Australia||Issues paper canvassed updating statutory provisions for heritage protection|
|Northern Territory||The Heritage Conservation Act 1991 review was launched in early 2004; the minister acknowledged legislation was out-of-date and unable to protect Territory icons such as the Hotel Darwin, old Supreme Court and some World War II sites, as well as considering Indigenous sites as only archaeological and ignoring natural heritage features of living culture|
Changes to Indigenous heritage legislation in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia appear to emphasise contemporary (social) significance and empower local and regional Indigenous bodies; however, there are inadequate structures, resources and training for this effective transfer of ‘power’ to be successful. In effect, the quality of overall heritage protection and mitigation afforded has diminished, despite increased levels of consultation, survey and key performance indicators such as completed reports and s90 and s18 permits. In the post-native title era many state agencies appear to be giving near-equal value to any interested parties in the heritage identification, assessment and consent stages. This is to abrogate a core responsibility to register and assess the content of heritage (and heritage stakeholders) with respect to both historic and contemporary associations. This is now manifested in examples of 35 overlapping claims known from the Western Australian Goldfields in the 1990s; in 18 concurrent groups being recognised by Department of Environment and Conservation in the Hunter Valley in cultural heritage surveys, assessment of values and subsequent protection and consent processes. This has caused a conundrum for local government, land users and managers as many of these non-mediated processes are now entering litigation. The cost to the public in New South Wales would be in the tens of millions of dollars—and arguably often with compromised heritage outcomes. There is a clear need for professional natural and cultural heritage moderators and mediators to be involved at these early stages of ratification of the identification and assessment process. 1
Trends are as follows:
- Much activity has been expended over the last five years in revising and updating heritage legislation across most jurisdictions.
- Increased enforcement has resulted in a higher profile for heritage conservation in some parts of the nation.
- Indigenous heritage protection has diminished in quality, while increasing in coverage, consultation and reporting and overlapping claims.
1Personal communication, Dr Peter Veth, AIATSIS, 9 July 2005.