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 commentary now looks at how those heritage values are managed to ensure they are conserved for present and future generations. This means creating ways of actively protecting these heritage values through environmental management, avoiding adverse impacts on these values, building community capacity and monitoring the results.
Protecting a heritage place involves first defining the place and its values, often entering the place onto a register or inventory to confirm its status as a ‘heritage place’, and then ensuring that its values are taken into account in planning for and decisions on actions that may impact on its values.
Many different mechanisms have been established, often through legislation, to enable this to happen. Broadly speaking, these mechanisms include:
- strategic plans and programmes for a region or locality (such as a catchment management plan; park management plan; or local land use plan) or for a natural resource (such as a catchment management plan; park management plan; or biodiversity action plan)
- impact assessment processes (such as environment impact assessment)
- statutory planning and development control instruments.
Other related approaches include performance standards, guidelines for development and impact minimisation, and advisory services. Public acquisition of places with high heritage values is also an option available to government.
Effectiveness in heritage protection depends on a combination of complex factors including legislation, including incentives and penalties, the condition and circumstances of the place, owner and manager good will, and resources.
Although the division of heritage into natural and cultural is a largely artificial distinction, and likewise the further division of cultural heritage into Indigenous and historic heritage, these distinctions have been strongly embedded in Australian law and government structures for more than 30 years.
Government systems for the management of cultural heritage places (and values) are primarily based on the development of heritage lists and registers that define the nature and extent of the heritage values. Examples include the Australia Government’s Register of the National Estate and the new National Heritage List, and state and territory heritage registers. Local government heritage schedules forming part of the planning and development control system are generally based on a similar type of list (see below).
Natural heritage values places are recognised through a substantial body of legislation, policy and planning processes. Some heritage registers specifically include places with natural heritage values, but not all do. Likewise, Indigenous heritage places may be protected through a register-based system, or through separate legislation and protective mechanisms.
Non-place cultural heritage (archives, records, objects, collections) and intangible heritage (folklife, traditions, language) are usually administered by another set of agencies such as state and territory museums, archives, and the arts. Objects may be included on some heritage registers if they are associated with a place; in Victoria and New South Wales, objects assessed as of state significance can be added to the heritage register in their own right.
The development of the EPBC Act offers the opportunity for a more integrated approach nationally, which could influence legislation and management systems in state and territory jurisdictions towards integrated, whole-of-government approaches.
As a method of identifying places with heritage values, heritage registers and lists have been relatively successful, although the processes are often time-consuming and require substantial resourcing. The scope of the places and values recognised reflects both the enabling legislation and heritage practice at the time. Heritage lists and registers are therefore a key tool in the management of heritage places and values, and because they appear to offer a definitive list of heritage places, they are easy to take account of in environmental management planning.
A significant disadvantage is that heritage registers will never be able to capture all heritage values and places. Problems include limitations in their scope and coverage:
The selection of individual places, in a register, is a device for identifying places we value. These are not the only places that the community or individuals may value. The list is always indicative, and limited by the means and criteria for selection. It does not cover the full range of places and features that people value – such as old signs.
The ‘dots on the map’ approach has problems, especially when it is applied to, say, Aboriginal sites. The division of heritage into Aboriginal, historic and natural is another issue. Another major goal for the heritage movement is to convey to the community an appreciation of history in the landscape. Heritage places can be used to explain this approach. (Walker 1997)
If environmental management planning processes rely on heritage registers, many places with heritage values will be overlooked. Studies can be conducted to identify heritage values, but this is not always possible. Natural heritage values such as biodiversity are seen as more central to environmental management planning, and are therefore more likely to be investigated and understood than are cultural heritage values.
As discussed above, although there is a stronger ‘integration’ model through the new national heritage system, heritage is still seen as ‘special’ places rather than as a value that may be found throughout the whole environment. This is particularly true for cultural heritage.
National environmental policy adopts a different approach, addressing broad segments of the environment—oceans, forests, ecologically sustainable development, biological diversity, water quality, and wetlands. Natural heritage values—the significance of ecosystems, biological diversity and geodiversity—are commonly valued wherever they occur. Such values form an integral part of environmental policy, at local, regional and national levels and often reflect international treaty obligations.
For example, biodiversity values including important species and other elements of biodiversity (habitat, ecological communities) are recognised as significant in Commonwealth and some state legislation. The foundation for biodiversity protection is provided by the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia’s Biological Diversity (DEST 1996), drawn up in 1992 by all Australian governments, followed by Australia signing the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in 1993 with agreement by the Council of Australian Governments. Cultural heritage values do not have, as yet, an equivalent foundation document.
Regional plans have become a common approach to land, water and biodiversity planning in Australia, often based on natural system boundaries such as catchments. This approach is strongly supported through the natural resource management and Natural Heritage Trust (NHT) programmes of the Australian Government (Australian Government 2004a, 2004b). This section looks at several examples of regional plans designed to address broad catchment-wide environmental issues to see how heritage is addressed.
The Comprehensive Regional Assessments undertaken as part of the regional forest agreements is an early example of a cooperative approach to regional natural resource planning developed through partnerships between Commonwealth and state governments and based on the foundations of Australia’s 1992 National Forest Policy Statement (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry 2006).
The Commonwealth, state and territory governments have established a natural resource management programme to provide for the integrated implementation of the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality (NAP) and the NHT.
The NAP is designed to support the actions of communities and land managers across Australia, to manage salinity and improve water quality through integrated regional natural resource management plans and investment strategies. The NAP recognises the significant impacts of dryland salinity on agricultural production, conservation of biodiversity and the viability of infrastructure. (National Resource Management Ministerial Council 2004, p. 22)
The NHT, through its policy objectives, themes and areas of activity now provides for three overarching objectives:
- Biodiversity conservation—the conservation of Australia’s biodiversity through the protection and restoration of terrestrial, freshwater, estuarine and marine ecosystems and habitat for native plants and animals.
- Sustainable use of natural resources—the sustainable use and management of Australia’s land, water and marine resources to maintain and improve the productivity and profitability of resource based industries.
- Community capacity building and institutional change—support for individuals, landholders, industry and communities with skills, knowledge, information and institutional frameworks to promote biodiversity conservation and sustainable resource use and management.
Bilateral agreements have been signed between the Australian Government and each state and territory government, setting out the cooperative arrangements needed to deliver the NAP and NHT programmes, including the development of accredited, regional ‘integrated natural resource management plans’ across fifty-six regions around Australia.
Regional plans set out the means for identifying and achieving the region’s natural resource management targets. They are agreed by Government and the community and, together with investment strategies for implementing the plan, define the goals and contributions that all parties will undertake. Regional plans detail catchment-wide activities addressing a range of natural resource management issues including land and water management, biodiversity and agricultural practices.’
Regional plans should be: based on a ‘whole of region’ approach and address significant natural resource management issues incorporating environmental, social and economic aspects. (Australian Government 2004a)
Indigenous natural resource management facilitators are employed in each of the regions along with Indigenous land management facilitators at the state and territory level to facilitate the integration of Indigenous cultural values into the regional planning processes. Guidelines have also been prepared to facilitate Indigenous participation in regional plans and to ensure that cultural places and values are taken into account (Commonwealth of Australia 2004).
The accreditation process requires that plans meet defined criteria and address national objectives and outcomes. These include:
Protect and manage places and values of national environmental significance, including threatened species and communities, listed migratory species, Ramsar wetlands of international importance, world heritage areas and national heritage places
Promote Indigenous community participation in planning and delivery of Regional NRM outcomes. (Australian Government 2004a)
Given the primary purpose of these plans, it would be expected that all heritage values would be considered in relation to natural resource management issues and processes, and that natural and Indigenous heritage values and places would be specifically recognised and protected.
The Victorian North Central Regional Catchment Strategy 2003–2007 provides a ‘framework for the future landscape of the North Central region and the strategic direction for managing its natural resources’. The strategy links to a series of other plans that cover topics such as native vegetation, pest plants and animals, stressed rivers, water management and so on (North Central Catchment Management Authority 2003).
It describes natural resource management as being about how we, as a society, value, use and manage natural resources or assets. Natural resources provide ‘services’ to society and to ecosystems. The primary natural resource assets are water, land, biodiversity and climate, and the social assets are ‘human’, meaning community capacity, cultural heritage and infrastructure. Maintaining or enhancing assets and their values are described as ‘the drivers of the current generation of plans and strategies’ and this differs from the first generation of plans, which were based on problems or threats (North Central Catchment Management Authority 2003, p. 23).
The strategy recognises Indigenous heritage (including numerous sites and places of cultural and archaeological significance) and goldrush era heritage (including diggings, racelines, buildings and streetscapes from that era) as part of the unique features of the region.
Natural heritage values are strongly embedded in the strategy (for example, biodiversity is recognised as an asset and a value), but the term natural heritage is not used, suggesting that this concept and values are indivisible from natural resource management (especially compared to cultural values and places).
The long-term (50-year) goal for cultural heritage is that:
Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultural heritage will be valued by the community, protected and maintained.
The proposed cultural heritage actions focus on five main areas: strengthening the engagement of Indigenous communities in natural resource management; reducing impacts on cultural heritage that occur through altered water flow regimes, the development of land for recreation and impacts arising from salinity; and the establishment of management agreements for all significant cultural heritage sites where on-ground works are to be undertaken. Actions cover both the protection of cultural heritage values and protection for impacts arising from environmental issues and management practices. Nevertheless, the actions are quite generalised, making them harder to implement, and appear limited in scope.
Compared to cultural heritage values, biodiversity (a natural heritage value and a regional asset) is a strong component of the strategy, with clear goals and a substantial list of actions around protecting and enhancing significant native vegetation communities and reducing impacts.
Biodiversity is also recognised as being ‘part of the region’s cultural heritage from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous perspectives’ with a focus on scarred trees and past food harvesting practices. Visual and recreational values are also recognised, primarily as valued uses rather than as ‘non-material values’.
As an example, this strategy includes natural and cultural heritage, but does not demonstrate a fully integrated approach. Indigenous perspectives appear to have strongly influenced and broadened the scope of natural resource planning and management. Areas that could be strengthened include:
- recognising the cultural importance of other ‘environmental services’ (for example, biodiversity)
- recognising natural heritage values explicitly to ensure that all aspects are covered in the plan (for example, geodiversity)
- taking a broader approach to cultural heritage assets (for example, by recognising broader cultural landscapes; by developing predictive models to help recognise the likelihood of unrecorded cultural heritage assets occurring within particular areas; and by recognising intangible heritage (such as customs and practices)
- recognising that ‘conflicting values’ may exist, for example ‘pest plants’ may also be cultural heritage assets, and that solutions are needed that recognise all values
- adopting standard terminology using the Natural Heritage and Burra charters to ensure clarity of meaning (for example, replacing ‘protected and maintained’ with ‘conserved’).
The Swan Region Strategy for Natural Resource Management (Swan Catchment Council 2004) covers a large area containing and surrounding the City of Perth, Western Australia. The strategy strongly responds to the ‘sense of place and a linkage to the land’ of the Nyoongar, the traditional owners of this area of country. Their role as managers of the natural resources of the region thousands of years is acknowledged, and European settlement is recognised as the root cause of most of the environmental issues addressed by the strategy. This appears to offer a strong foundation for the strategy, and it is reflected throughout the document, from the opening pages where the creation of the land is told by Nyoongar elder Noel Nannup.
The strategy proposes a series of seven aspirational goals, one of which frames cultural heritage within natural resource management:
Protect, enhance and incorporate cultural heritage values within the Region to achieve sustainable natural resource management outcome. (Swan Catchment Council 2004, p. 5)
The section of the strategy on cultural heritage (section 3.7) recognises the complex environmental, economic and social benefits of cultural heritage. For Indigenous people, cultural heritage is not seen as isolated from natural heritage. For example, the cultural heritage section of the strategy recognises:
Areas of significance within Nyoongar culture include: land formations, rivers, wetlands, estuaries, freshwater pools, Aboriginal sites, biodiversity, air, water, communities, walk trails, traditional knowledge. (Swan Catchment Council 2004, p. 137)
The strategy identifies that relatively little is known about the ‘current state of Indigenous cultural heritage in relation to natural resource management’ and sets out management targets to better define this relationship (Swan Catchment Council 2004, p. 139).
For non-Indigenous people, cultural heritage is considered to primarily focus on historic places, recognising ‘sense of place’ and the broader landscape as contributing elements.
The strategy appears to offer a new model through its foundation on an integrated Indigenous perspective on land and heritage. It is more ‘traditional’ in its approach to non-Indigenous heritage.
The resultant strategy, expressed as ‘regional priorities’, seeks a substantial increase in community participation and education across almost all natural resource management actions, indicating that the new perspectives in the strategy will be widely shared. The cultural heritage targets are quite specific, with two important proposals: firstly, a substantial (75 per cent) increase in number of local and state government agencies involved in natural resource management incorporating Indigenous cultural heritage into their processes, and secondly, establishing partnerships to further incorporate natural resource management principles into heritage protection by 2008 (Swan Catchment Council 2004, p. 186).
A review of older catchment and natural resource management plans reveals a considerable shift in thinking over the last ten to 15 years, moving from a narrow definition of natural resources towards a values-based and more integrated approach, particularly in the last two to three years. Some examples that illustrate these changes are discussed briefly below; but the scope of this commentary paper does not allow full exploration of the purposes, objectives of the plans, nor the responsibilities of the initiating agencies.
For example, the Wimmera Catchment Salinity Management Plan (Wimmera Catchment Co-ordinating Group 1992) recognises ‘conservation, recreation and tourism’ but primarily in relation to natural vegetation values and associated outdoor recreation. Indigenous values associated with wetlands and streams, for example, are not mentioned. Impacts on buildings and structures are mentioned but only generally, with no reference to cultural heritage values. Significant vegetation communities are seen as potentially severely impacted, but the idea of cultural landscape values is not addressed. Nor does the action plan propose to involve Indigenous communities. The pre-1993 Guidelines for Land and Water Management Plans (Murray and Murrumbidgee Catchment Management Committee n.d)for New South Wales was designed to guide communities in the creation of a plan. Cultural heritage resources have limited recognition. Time for Action (Hawkesbury-Nepean Catchment Management Trust 1996),a plan about vegetation conservation within the Hawkesbury-Nepean catchment, recognises native vegetation as primarily being of environmental value while noting that its protection would enhance ‘heritage values’. The action plan is ahead of its time in recognising the importance of ‘scenic and landform features’ and ‘historical significance and other social aspects’ in the evaluation of conservation priorities within the catchment, and recognises the need to consult with Indigenous groups, the National Trust and historical societies to ensure cultural heritage items are protected within vegetation management plans.
By 2000, the New South Wales Native Vegetation Conservation Strategy (Native Vegetation Advisory Council NSW 2000, pp. 11–12)for example, recognised the ecological, social, economic and Indigenous cultural values of native vegetation. Social and cultural values are broadly defined, and recognised as dynamic and diverse. These values are about how we see and interact with ‘the land and its living things’, and include recognition of places of scenic beauty and maintenance of distinctive Australian landscapes. Indigenous cultural values include spiritual connections, with ‘uncleared landscapes’ recognised as providing ‘a direct link to the traditional Indigenous landscape’.
The Victorian approach to native vegetation management plans, published in the same year, does not recognise cultural values (Corangamite Catchment Management Authority 2000). These plans focus on the reversal of the long-term decline in the extent and quality of native vegetation, focusing on ecological processes and biodiversity values. While economic values are recognised in the guiding principles, the non-material values such as local identity and cultural landscapes are not.
Local government plays an important role in the recognition and protection of heritage values and places, and in local environmental management. There are a variety of ways in which local government can act including: statutory controls, advice and incentives, direct land and property management, community development, environmental education.
Planning schemes are a common method of protecting places of local heritage significance in many states of Australia. In Victoria, for example, it is estimated that more than 100 000 cultural heritage places (primarily historic) are protected through local planning schemes, compared to around 2000 on the state government register (Heritage Victoria 2005).
Many local government authorities have developed local strategies or plans addressing environmental and sustainability issues that are important in their locality—local conservation strategies, Agenda 21 plans, environment strategies, with the different names reflecting different periods and the influence of government policy. Usually these adopt a ‘whole-of-local-government’ approach, addressing issues and seeking solutions through a single vision statement that is combined with integrated policies and programmes.
Some of these ‘environment’ plans address heritage explicitly. One recent example from Victoria, the Nillumbik Environment Strategy (Nillumbik Shire Council 2001) is based on the council’s vision for the shire, which includes a ‘protected and preserved natural, built and historical environment’. As might be expected, biodiversity protection is addressed in relation to ecosystem benefits but it is not linked to cultural values (contribution to local identity for example). Water and land are treated in a similar way. Natural and cultural heritage is addressed in a separate theme that focuses on heritage places, and recognises landscapes as important heritage assets. There is a connection to arts and culture. Overall, the actions around environment are more substantial than those around heritage, and natural heritage is largely subsumed into the environment; but the end result appears to offer a good basis for achieving good heritage outcomes through a local environment plan.
Local government heritage strategies appear to be less common than environment strategies. In Victoria, most local government heritage strategies are based on historic place protection and focus on statutory planning and associated advice and incentives schemes. An exception is the Maribyrnong City Council’s heritage plan (Maribyrnong City Council 2001), which offers a ‘whole-of-council’ set of recommendations for protecting natural and cultural heritage places. Some actions also involve outside organisations, including state and Commonwealth government agencies and community groups.
At a national level, Australian local government authorities come together through the National General Assembly of Local Government (convened by the Australian Local Government Association—ALGA) to develop and express a united voice on issues concerning their communities. Resolutions of these assemblies help inform ALGA and state and territory local government associations when developing national priorities and policies on behalf of local government (National General Assembly of Local Government 2004).
The current national agenda for local government has a strong global environmental focus, seeking to address ‘global environmental problems, such as the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the protection of biodiversity, the preservation of wilderness, and the prevention of further depletion of the ozone layer’ (National General Assembly of Local Government 2004).
The natural environment agenda is based on the ‘principles of catchment management, sustainability, land conservation and natural resource management’ and the cultural heritage agenda focuses on ‘programmes to conserve and manage features of social, cultural, architectural, historic and Aboriginal significance’.
As seems common at other levels of government, ‘environment’ appears to be a strong integrating concept on the national local government agenda, whereas ‘heritage’ is narrowly defined as cultural heritage (National General Assembly of Local Government 2004).
Reservation of land to protect natural heritage values also protects Indigenous values associated with peoples’ connections to land, plants and animals and to traditional areas (including spiritual values). It could also help protect Indigenous sites that relate to traditional use of that land by reducing impacts. Increasingly, Indigenous people’s rights to continue traditional practices such as hunting, gathering of plants, and access for ceremony are being recognised in management planning for such areas, and in many cases, there is transfer of ownership and co-management agreements. As well, employment of Indigenous people in management roles is increasing their opportunities to contribute their knowledge on the best ways to care for that land, as well as continuing their connection with that land.
The Western Australian Department of Conservation and Land Management has developed a draft policy on Indigenous involvement in nature conservation and land management that (amongst other things) commits to consultation of proposed new reserves, recognises Aboriginal intellectual property rights, provides for shared management, and supports the rights of access and land use by native title-holders to practise traditional laws and customs (CALM 2001). A subsequent discussion paper seeks comment on the objective of meeting IUCN best practice guidelines in relation to the involvement of Indigenous people in protected area management (CALM 2003).
The New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service has been working with Indiginous communities to develop ‘approaches to land management that recognise the cultural values of biodiversity and of the environment’. Specific projects have included ‘development of joint management of national parks (for example, Mutawintji National Park), Indigenous involvement in biodiversity surveys, and research and the mapping of people’s attachment to landscapes using oral history and participatory planning techniques.’ (Department of Environment and Conservation 2004)
Far fewer opportunities are offered to non-Indigenous people who have long associations with places and landscapes. It is only in recent years that the importance of these associations have started to be recognised, often through the assessment of social significance—defined ‘as strong or special associations with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons’ (Register of the National Estate, criterion G).
Reservation of public land to protect its natural heritage values often restricts traditional uses that may have been practiced for generations: such as hunting, grazing of stock, or riding horses. While these uses are now be known to be damaging to natural heritage values, the long association between people (often specific families) and these areas may have resulted in development of cultural heritage values. New approaches to this issue are starting to emerge.
In Tasmania, for example, investigations of traditional practices have documented elements of the traditional and continuing relationship between five local communities and their environment (Knowles 1997). This has helped focus discussion about the continuation of use and access arrangements in areas such as the upper Mersey valley, an area largely within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area that represents deep affection, a sense of place, and a sense of history for local communities (Russell and Johnston 2005).
Rather than setting natural and cultural heritage values in opposition to each other, the 1999 Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area management plan prepared by the National Parks and Wildlife Service breaks new ground, recognising that:
cultural values were to be understood not only in terms of fabric associated with historic events, but with practices expressive of attachments to places that communities were committed to maintaining. (Russell and Jambrecina 2002, cited in Russell and Johnston 2005)
Local ‘sense of place’, is a more diffuse quality that is harder to define. Lippard (1997, p.7) describes it as:
Inherent in the local is the concept of place – a portion of land/town/cityscape seen from the inside, the resonance of a specific location that is known and familiar … our own “local” – entwined with personal memory, known or unknown histories, marks in the land that provoke and evoke.
For Lippard, heritage is not just simply places or parts of the environment. Instead it is about relationships between people and their environment, and about culture and experience.
For example, a current urban planning issue in many Australian cities is the impact of new development on neighbourhood character. Neighbourhood character is being recognised through studies as a value to be protected:
Neighbourhood character has emerged as a significant planning issue over the last 10 years in response to the impact of newer, more intensive development in traditional suburban streets. Neighbourhood character studies have been used to identify areas or features of neighbourhood character in a municipality (City of Stonnington 2005).
In rural areas, the impacts on local landscapes from new land uses such as wind farms and plantations are causing concern to some communities.
In both cases, theses urban and rural landscapes are seen as having a value to present and future communities, not as ‘heritage places’ per se but as a part of people’s locality and identity. Managing an environment that is so resonant with meaning is indeed a challenge, requiring respect for diverse and often unarticulated values.
It would help to recognise that cultural heritage values may be present throughout whole landscapes in the same way as (for example) biodiversity values. The State of the Environment Tasmania 2003 defines cultural landscapes as:
Cultural landscapes are an aggregation of places, features, objects, archival material, memories and perceptions of social and contemporary significance. The World Heritage Convention defines cultural landscapes as the ‘combined works of nature and of man’, demonstrating the evolution of human society in conjunction with environmental constraints and opportunities and illustrating successive social, economic, and cultural forces.
The whole of Tasmania can be considered a cultural landscape produced by Aborigines. European settlers imposed their cultural landscapes upon this Aboriginal environment.(Resource Planning and Development Commission 2005)
In this interesting definition, cultural landscapes do not stand apart from nature. Rather they are a way of seeing the environment, recognising and valuing the layers.
Urban planning recognises environmental issues such as energy and water conservation and management being current priorities, along with air quality and health, conversion of non-urban land for city expansion, waste and recycling and pollution.
A significant policy response to energy and greenhouse issues has been to propose ‘urban consolidation’ by increasing the density of the population in urban areas well served with public transport, employment opportunities and infrastructure.
These areas are usually close to the centre of neighbourhoods and communities—locations that often contain significant heritage places and qualities that are highly valued by local communities as part of their identity. The rise of community groups to protect their local area and the continuing involvement of National Trust organisations in defending the heritage values of suburban areas has demonstrated the strength of community feeling.
No monitoring of the actual impact on increasing dwelling density on heritage values has been specifically undertaken nationally, although a condition survey of historic places has identified that there are some pressures on prominent buildings in cities and regional centres associated with redevelopment and increasing land values (Pearson and Marshall 2005).
On the other hand, increasing the density of the inner areas of cities and town is also designed to reduce its expansion into the surrounding landscape where such development could impact on environmental and natural heritage values (such as water quality or biodiversity) and on cultural heritage values (such as Indigenous sites, historic rural settlements and landscapes) Lennon reports that Indigenous groups have identified that ‘housing estates, logging, quarries, wind farms and marinas being constructed on culturally significant sites’ is a major issue in the protection of sites (Lennon 2006).
Coastal regions and some ‘bush’ towns have experienced dramatic growth over the last ten years, and this trend appears to be continuing. While it is not the result of a deliberate environmental policy, the intensification of growth in these areas is certain to be impacting on environmental and heritage values. The impacts are likely to be both positive and negative, and could range from an increasing reuse of historic buildings through to native vegetation clearing for new development. Government policy groups have recently been established to address the impacts of the ‘sea change’ phenomena.
The areas that are losing population will be suffering at least a loss of local community knowledge, but many smaller rural settlements are likely to experience loss of local community services, closure of community buildings, and a threat to a community’s sense of identity and cohesiveness.
Concern about climate change (the greenhouse effect) is an important driver of government policy to increase urban densities in developed areas, manage travel demand and seek mode shifts, improve building siting and design, along with retrofitting of existing buildings. Likewise water conservation is influencing new subdivision and building design.
Climate change is regarded the major environmental issue that will affect terrestrial and marine natural heritage.
Energy from renewable sources is a positive environmental initiative but may also impact on broader landscapes. A recent example is the development of wind farms, which has been recognised as impacting on valued rural landscapes, on biodiversity values, on Indigenous sites and spiritual values, and on contemporary cultural values and sense of place.
In response, an issues paper has been prepared by the Australian Wind Energy Association and Australian Council of National Trusts. It proposes a values-based method for assessing landscapes, emphasising the importance of understand the values of communities and stakeholders in each locality. If applied, this may provide a useful tool towards recognition of extensive rather than site-based heritage values (AWEA and ACNT 2005).