Heritage Advisory Services: Towards best practice - National guidelines for Heritage Advisory Services

Elizabeth Vines and Katrina McDougall, Conservation and Heritage Consultants

Towards Best Practice

4 National guidelines for Heritage Advisory Services

4.1 Recommendation for national guidelines, handbook and other initiatives

This report recommends the adoption of National Guidelines for Heritage Advisory Services, to be provided to all State Government Heritage Offices.

Differences in management structures and service provisions exist across the States and Territories and the roles and expectation of Heritage Advisers vary considerably between areas. A Heritage Advisers Handbook should be prepared and based on Section 4.3 – 4.8 below. This should be provided to all States and Territories for adaptation as required. The handbook would comprise the following:

  • advantages and benefits of Heritage Advisory Services
  • avenues of funding for advisory positions
  • guideline contract for Advisers
  • guideline duty statement and professional qualifications
  • reporting requirements for annual reports and written reports during the year
  • Heritage Committee guidelines
  • local restoration fund guidelines
  • remuneration of Advisers
  • associated training programs for Advisers, councillors and council staff
  • practical examples of advice provided to councils, Government agencies and the community to provide models for use by advisers
  • annual meetings.

This handbook should be made widely available to Advisers and local councils through the relevant State Government agency on computer disk format so it is readily adaptable.

The advice of the New South Wales Heritage Office should be sought in the establishment of any national networks and training programs for Heritage Advisers, and in the preparation of a Heritage Advisers Handbook.

In addition, a national Heritage Advisers newsletter, computerised database of Advisers and annual or biennial national meetings should all be developed to assist in the effective running and development of these services.

4.2 Funding of Heritage Advisory Services

Future funding options for Heritage Advisory Services are as follows:

  • Shared State Government–local government funding – This is effectively used in most States with the State Government–local government contribution varying from 50 per cent State Government – 50 per cent local government, to 66 per cent State Government – 33 per cent local government, and 33 per cent State Government – 66 per cent local government. New South Wales has developed sunset clauses whereby funding in metropolitan areas becomes the full responsibility of local government in Sydney after three years, and funding is reduced in rural councils after four years. It is recommended that a shared funding approach is adopted nationally, but the level of sharing will vary throughout each of the States and funding proportions will need to be determined by State Heritage Offices.
  • Fully funded services by local government – In metropolitan areas (and particularly with merged councils with larger rate bases) it is sometimes possible and appropriate to hand over full funding responsibilities to local government. This is required in New South Wales metropolitan councils and in no cases have Heritage Advisory Services terminated due to withdrawal of State Government funds. The ability of local councils to absorb the costs will differ across the States. It is recommended that, where possible, local government metropolitan councils fully fund their own Heritage Advisory Services once these are well established and functioning effectively.
  • Federal funding – Continued Federal Government funding contributions for States and Territories with smaller population bases is recommended. Heavy reliance on national funding has always been required in these locations. Smaller States take the view that ongoing financial support is essential to maintain equity across the nation.

    A special case is Tasmania which has not previously received any Federal Government funding for Heritage Advisory Services and now requires the establishment of these services to effectively manage the State’s heritage asset base.
  • Sponsorship for Heritage Advisory Services – This is recommended, where local commitment will facilitate this. A successful example is the City of Bendigo, Victoria where the Bendigo Building Society provided financial sponsorship for this program.
  • Proceeds from the sale of State Government owned heritage assets – In New South Wales, an effective State Heritage Fund and financial framework for the operation of Heritage Advisory Services has been achieved by this source of funding. In other States proceeds from the sales of heritage assets have been immediately returned to State revenue to pay off State debts (most notably in South Australia and Victoria). It is recommended that State and Territory policies should be developed as required, encouraging relevant Government agencies to consider this strategy. A percentage of the proceeds could be forwarded to the relevant State Heritage Office and used for the establishment of new Heritage Advisory Services where required, and the ongoing funding of existing services.

4.3 Guidelines for the establishment of Heritage Advisory Services

4.3.1 Goal of Heritage Advisory Services

The main goal of a Heritage Advisory Service is to assist a local council and the community in the management of their heritage assets.

Heritage advisory programs have been very successful in providing a positive attitude towards heritage conservation through assisting councils, communities and owners of heritage properties with expert heritage advice and through the promotion of heritage conservation in the area.

4.3.2 Administration of Heritage Advisory Services

These are generally decentralised programs usually with dollar-for-dollar grant funding provided through the relevant State Government agency to councils which engage Advisers to visit their area on a regular basis.

In rural areas it is generally sufficient for a visit on a one day a month basis; in urban areas there may be a need for more frequent visits. At the start of any program it will be necessary to increase the number of visits until the program is established.

Advisers normally report to one senior officer, for example the Town Planner, with the council supplying backup office facilities (including appointment books). The Adviser should attend committee meetings, particularly Heritage Advisory Committees, and liaise as required with council planners, engineers, community services staff and others.

A very important part of the Adviser’s work is to ensure that the council and its community have adequate access to heritage-focused education, management and promotion. Advisers should arrange for special training sessions in heritage issues for council staff, local professionals, elected councillors and the community.

4.3.3 Heritage Adviser’s skills and qualities

Four qualities are important for an effective heritage adviser:

  • adequate knowledge and suitable experience in heritage conservation work
  • an ability to provide practical conservation design solutions
  • an ability to actively promote heritage conservation through education and management, and
  • an ability to negotiate acceptable solutions to problems involving heritage matters where these arise.

Most State heritage agencies maintain a register of consultants with experience in heritage matters and contact should be made with the State Heritage Agency to obtain names of three or four consultants. Most Advisers appointed to date have been conservation architects but this does not exclude the possibility of other persons with appropriate skills and experience being appointed.

4.3.4 Appointing an Adviser

It is generally recommended that councils approach three or four consultants (perhaps more in the metropolitan area) to seek expressions of interest in the position, using a standard letter inviting expressions of interest and an accompanying brief. (Refer Section 4.4)

4.3.5 Remuneration for Advisers

The Adviser will be paid by the council on a consultancy basis. Remuneration will be per visit, either full day, or half day (or longer period if necessary), which will be fully inclusive of all expenses. An allowance may be agreed upon between the council and the Heritage Adviser where distance may require the Adviser to undertake extended travel and/or an overnight stay. Back-up services provided by the council – office, typing, telephone, photographic supplies and possible local transport – should be calculated in the fee structure. Individual State Governments will need to determine their own pay rates guideline.

A rate or fee may also be agreed upon between the council and the Heritage Adviser for additional time requested by the council outside the Adviser’s normal hours. This should be specified in the letter of engagement.

It will be the responsibility of the Adviser to provide for professional indemnity insurance. The council will not be required to pay for workers’ compensation, superannuation, annual leave etc or any costs in addition to the agreed fees.

4.3.6 Restriction on other work

The standard brief may contain certain restrictions on other work which Advisers can do in the subject area. These restrictions are designed to avoid any conflict of interest.

Generally it is recommended the Adviser should not be a resident of the municipality where they are to work, nor have an established practice within the area. The Adviser shall inform the council of any possible conflict of interest as soon as this is known.

4.3.7 Reporting

The Adviser should keep a diary as the basis for the preparation of regular written reports after each visit, to be presented to the local council (and the State Heritage Agency if required). An annual report should be presented to the council to provide a comprehensive picture of the scope of the program on an annual basis. Advisers should present the report on each of the specific duties contained in the standard letter of engagement – this has the value of providing an annual check list of performance. This report should be forwarded to the State Heritage Agency and be a requirement for any State Government funding.

4.3.8 Involvement of the State Government Heritage Agency

The Heritage Agency should approve the Adviser to be appointed and the fees to be paid; provide part funding, training and support services for Advisers; and be provided with an annual report on the program. Annual meetings should be arranged to allow for regular networking and sharing of experiences. Apart from these matters the program is very much one for the council to administer on a day- to-day basis, with the Adviser reporting directly to the council.

4.4 Guideline brief for Heritage Adviser

Role of the Heritage Adviser

The primary goal of all Advisers and of a heritage advisory program is to assist a local council and the community in the effective management of their heritage assets. Heritage assets include buildings, sites, relics, heritage landscapes, precincts, main streets, cemeteries, archaeological sites, industrial heritage sites and movable items.

Benefits of the advisory program

Effective Heritage Advisers and associated programs ensure that council staff, councillors and the community have access to the best possible educational, management and promotional arrangements for heritage.


The work to be carried out by the Adviser is as follows:

(1) Review the adequacy of the educational, management and promotional arrangements for heritage in the area and take steps to correct deficiencies.

(a) Education – The Adviser will make a group-by-group review of the heritage educational needs for local council staff, local councillors, local professionals and tradespeople, schools and the community generally.

(b) Management – The Adviser will review the current arrangements for heritage including the establishment of a heritage committee to the council, the survey and protection of items, the dissemination of adequate and appropriate information to owners about the listing, protection and general care of heritage items and the way in which change to heritage items and sites is managed by the council.

(c) Promotion – The Adviser will review what pro-active steps have been taken to promote heritage conservation in the area. Such measures may include:

  • the commissioning of main street studies and urban design strategies
  • the establishment of local heritage funds
  • the preparation and distribution of appropriate information to assist the local community to understand and conserve heritage items
  • the establishment of heritage trails
  • the interpretation of specific sites
  • the active pursuit of cultural tourism in the area.

(2) Assess all previous studies on heritage in the area and in particular, the recommendations of heritage studies and seek to encourage the implementation of these recommendations where appropriate.

(3) Provide free advice to property owners with respect to any alterations and conservation work to be undertaken to heritage places. This work is generally to be restricted to providing sufficient advice for the owner to proceed in a way which will have a positive outcome for the heritage place concerned. It is not intended that the Adviser replace the role of a normal architectural service in supplying working drawings. Where the job is large it should be handled by an independent architect, although it is accepted that a somewhat greater level of advice and support may be provided where the item is owned by a non-profit community group, or local council or where the area is isolated and there is not reasonable access to such an architectural service.

(4) Assist the council in managing change by providing advice on all development and building applications involving heritage items and issues.

(5) Compile a list of suitably qualified and experienced local architects, engineers, builders and other conservation tradesmen and suppliers for the purpose of providing advice to heritage owners.

(6) Monitor the condition and maintenance of heritage items in the area.

(7) Supervise any council-commissioned heritage survey conservation study, where necessary.

(8) Assist all heritage owners, where necessary, to apply for relevant heritage funding.

(9) Provide advice concerning matters for action under the relevant State or Territory Heritage Act.

(10) Establish, where none exists in an organised way, the collection of heritage resource material including photographs to assist heritage conservation and promotion in the area. This should be done in consultation with the council, the library and the local historical society.

(11) Provide advice on Commonwealth, State and local government initiatives that are relevant to heritage matters.


The Heritage Adviser will generally be responsible to a council officer, generally the local council Town Planner. To achieve the objectives of the program the Adviser should be given reasonable freedom of operation including direct negotiation with the local community, councillors, owners, developers, government and the Heritage Office and the making of recommendations to the council.

Back-up facilities

Telephone, office space, typing, appointment-taking facilities, and photographic supplies should be provided by the council.

Terms of payment

The number of visits per year and dollars per month need to be outlined in the Adviser’s contract. The following contract format could be useful:

Payment will be at the rate of $ .......... per 8 hour visit, inclusive of all expenses except for travel.

The Adviser will be paid .... cents per kilometre for using a personal vehicle on inspections etc unless the council supplies a vehicle.

Where applicable: When advice is required from the Adviser’s office in between visits, the Adviser will be paid at the rate of $ ....... per hour.

Procedure for payment

The Heritage Adviser should be required to lodge a claim for payment with the relevant council officer (eg Town Planner) every month.

Restriction on other work because of possible conflict of interest

It may be necessary to restrict the extent of work of Advisers. * [This may not apply in all cases]* The Adviser or the Adviser’s firm may not undertake other paid work in the local government area concerned except with council clearance to the following exemptions:

  1. continuation of architectural services to completion on a heritage project which had commenced at the time of the appointment of the Adviser
  2. work on any matter provided it does not:
    1. involve a heritage item, a heritage site or an item in an urban conservation area whether listed or not, or
    2. involve any item which might reasonably be expected to have been the subject of advice by a Heritage Adviser, or
    3. lead to a conflict of interest with the role of Heritage Adviser.

General conditions

Either party may terminate this agreement on one month's written notice. The terms of this contractual letter may be varied with the agreement of both parties and the endorsement of the Heritage Office.


The Adviser must keep a diary in relation to all work carried out. It should record visit days, the jobs carried out through each day, the persons seen and the issue involved. This diary will be used as the basis for preparing reports including an annual report to the council and the relevant heritage authority.

The annual report should be prepared as follows. Each entry under Duties (1) to (11) outlined above shall be repeated and under each the Adviser shall insert what work was undertaken. Details can be brief but an adequate picture of the work undertaken should be given. Where no work has been carried out under a particular duty area this should also be stated.

4.5 Standard letter to council from Government Heritage Agency

Download standard letter to council from Government Heritage Agency (DOC - 12 KB)

4.6 Standard letter for councils calling for expressions of interest from consultants

Download standard letter for councils calling for expressions of interest from consultants (DOC - 11.5 KB)

4.7 Heritage policies and strategy areas

Advisers should work within, and help advise on, strategic management policies for heritage developed by their employee council.

The following provides an example of a range of areas where advisers may be required to assist with the strategic policy development:


  • architectural advice
  • heritage seminars and workshops
  • heritage walking trail or thematic tours
  • heritage newsletters
  • conservation guidelines


  • heritage conservation awards
  • heritage information sent out with rate assessment
  • main street program
  • video of local heritage assets
  • heritage plaques and interpretation signs

Community participation

  • local Heritage Advisory Committee
  • local history centre for building research
  • cultural development programs

Financial and other incentives

  • free architectural advice
  • local Heritage Fund assistance
  • fee waiver for development applications
  • flexibility in parking and other building requirements
  • rate differential or reduction


  • State Heritage Fund
  • National Estate Grants Program – (now cut for State programs)
  • local Heritage Fund
  • Commonwealth tax incentives

4.8 Associated management structures

4.8.1 Local government

Local government should be responsible for the day-to-day running of Heritage Advisory Services and it is essential that the management system is clearly defined at the outset. Close communication is recommended between the Adviser and the staff member in charge (eg the Town Planner). A system for filing information prepared by the Heritage Adviser should be established to allow easy accessibility by the Adviser during visits and easy reference for council staff between visits. This is a critical step and allows for continuity of service should an individual Adviser change. A ring-binder folder for hard copies should be sufficient, or copies of information on computer disk filed appropriately within the council’s computer system.

In association with local government staff, the Adviser should establish standard reporting systems at the outset and determine whether business cards for the position are to be printed.

4.8.2 Heritage Committees

Reasons for a Heritage Committee

It is recommended that a Heritage Committee be established (or incorporated into the role of an existing council committee) particularly for country councils where time between Advisers’ visits can be lengthy. Heritage Committees also:

  • maximise the effect of an Adviser’s time in the area
  • maintain continuity between the Adviser’s visits
  • provide a perspective on community issues with input of local knowledge
  • establish a community base, knowledge and understanding of heritage issues and make heritage initiatives more of a community involvement
  • strengthen the Adviser’s position – rather than the Adviser having a lone voice speaking out on issues, a Heritage Committee can provide separate supporting advice on heritage issues
  • allow continuity of heritage work and a voice on heritage issues should the Heritage Adviser no longer be employed by council.

The following provides an example of the framework for a Heritage Committee which could be modified and adapted to suit particular circumstances.

Role of a Heritage Committee

The primary role of a Heritage Committee is to provide the best possible advice to the council on how to conserve and promote heritage items in its area; its responsibility should preferably include natural, historic and Aboriginal places.

Committee structure

A Heritage Committee should preferably be a formal committee of the council so that it has the support of the council and can feed directly into council decision-making.


The committee should have well-defined and achievable objectives to:

  • prepare and monitor a heritage policy
  • provide advice to the council on the management of heritage by the council (this includes reviewing council or Government policies which affect heritage places in the area)
  • raise community awareness of heritage conservation through publications, seminars, public displays and annual heritage awards
  • make recommendations on the collection and recording of local heritage material and artefacts
  • compile a register of local heritage suppliers and heritage consultants
  • make recommendations on the nomination and deletion of items from the heritage schedule maintained by the council
  • supervise funding submissions to other agencies, including requests for heritage grants from the relevant State Heritage Agency
  • comment on specific applications before the council when required.

The committee should include representatives from the community, the council and council staff. Community representatives will come from local organisations with a specific interest in heritage or townscapes, such as the:

  • local historical society
  • National Trust branch
  • local Aboriginal group
  • chamber of commerce
  • Tidy Towns group
  • main street committee.

Council staff may include representatives from council’s Planning and/or Building Division. If there is a regional service, there will be several localities, and care needs to be taken to ensure that the needs of these areas are taken into account. It is important to choose people who are willing to do things, even if this means a smaller committee.

Preferably the chair of the committee (and its link to the Heritage Advisory Service) should be a councillor, so that its views can be fed directly into council meetings. It is recommended that the chair position change annually.

Constitution for a Heritage Committee

It is useful to set down the rules of the Heritage Committee in writing at the commencement of the committee’s operations.

4.8.3 Local heritage fund

A local heritage assistance fund can be established to provide small grants to encourage heritage projects. These can be provided as dollar-for-dollar grants for works, or as low interest loans. Typically a council’s Heritage Advisory Committee would make recommendations on the advice of the Heritage Adviser or other staff member. Loans have the advantage of enabling scarce funds to be recycled to assist other projects, whereas grants have the advantage of being administratively easy and are useful where the applicant has little or no revenue-earning capacity. Small grants help with such things as the reinstatement of picket fences and painting and other minor works of a conservation nature.