An integrated approach to environment and heritage issues
Chris Johnston, Context Pty Ltd
prepared for the 2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee, 2006
This cross-cutting commentary has been commissioned to assess whether Australia’s heritage is being effectively managed in relation to other environmental management issues. The scope of the commentary has been defined through consultation with the Australian Government Department of Environment and Heritage (DEH).
Managing Australia’s heritage effectively in relation to environmental management involves:
- recognising heritage values
- managing for those values
- building capacity
- monitoring and evaluation.
This short commentary explores some of the challenges in each of these areas, and looks at examples that indicate positive directions. It concludes with some observations about possible emerging ideas and challenges.
While this commentary explores this above topic broadly, it pays particular attention to the place of cultural heritage within environmental management. The primary focus is land-based, because the budget and timeframe did not allow a consideration of marine natural resource managements.
First this commentary looks at the recognition of heritage values. This means, for example, asking how effectively these values are incorporated into legislative and government systems, what tools there are to recognise changing values, and how well are diverse community perspectives acknowledged.
Next, the commentary looks at how those heritage values are managed to ensure they are conserved for present and future generations. This means, for example, creating ways of actively protecting these values and establishing an environment management system that help avoid impacts—intentional or unintentional—on heritage values. It also means capacity building in terms of knowledge, resources, skills and volunteers. Monitoring and evaluation have not been considered because they are the focus of the Australian State of the Environment 2006 (SoE2006) as a whole.
A scoping paper was developed by DEH to help brief the writer of this commentary. The scoping paper raised a number of issues and questions. In particular, it asked whether there are:
- implications for Australia’s heritage arising from environmental issues and processes
- direct threats to heritage when natural resource management programmes are implemented without considering heritage issues
- best practice examples where heritage values are well integrated into the planning and implementation of natural resource management programmes.
These topics are explored through the structure proposed above.
One issue appeared to underpin the scoping paper: ‘One suspects that there are two worlds proceeding independently of each other – notably the heritage world and the natural resource management world’. If this is so, what are the consequences? A conclusion reached here is that there is a closer alignment today than there has ever been before, but more is possible.