Natural and cultural heritage: Condition of Australia's heritage

Independent report to the Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Beeton RJS (Bob), Buckley Kristal I, Jones Gary J, Morgan Denise, Reichelt Russell E, Trewin Dennis
(2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee), 2006

9.3 Condition of Australia’s heritage

Despite this expansive and increasing knowledge of heritage, there are few systematic efforts to monitor the condition of Australia’s heritage, and no agreed measure for assessing the ‘condition’ of either natural heritage places  or Indigenous heritage . Progress has been made in summarising the natural values and environmental condition of natural heritage places by the Victorian, New South Wales and Australian government agencies, through State of the Parks reporting processes. Aside from the periodic reporting requirements of the World Heritage Convention, there has not been much monitoring of impacts to assess the condition of the iconic World Heritage places, nor have there been surveys to evaluate whether visitors learnt about the heritage values of these places, despite the identification of the need for these surveys in SoE2001. The State of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area Report is an exception.

The results of two national surveys assessing the condition of a sample of historic heritage places  carried out in 2000 and 2004 show that there were minor changes in the condition and integrity of the surveyed historic heritage places over that period (Table 19). The practicability of assessing these places remains a challenge for reporting on historic heritage condition.

Table 19: Changes in integrity and condition of historic heritage places, 2000–04
Integrity and condition categories 2000 2004
Number of places % Number of places %
High integrity 510 41.9 477 37.9
Medium integrity 603 49.5 690 54.9
Low integrity 105 8.6 90 7.2
Good condition 538 44.2 561 44.6
Fair condition 611 50.2 608 48.4
Poor condition 69 5.7 88 7.0
Total number surveyed 1218   1257  

Source: Pearson and Marshall (2006)

Heritage Victoria undertook a survey of owners about the condition of a proportion of properties on the Victorian Heritage Register in 2002–03. Its self-selecting sample led to subjective interpretations of condition, but positive outcomes have resulted, with more detailed information about the places, and good relations with their owners and managers.

While the subjective method of the survey is acknowledged, the results suggest that as many as ‘30 per cent of heritage places could be considered “at risk” either now or in the future if no remediation works are done’. The survey also found that 64 per cent of funds for conservation work were from private sources, and 22 per cent were from the funding programmes of the Heritage Council.

Source: Heritage Council of Victoria, Annual Report 2002-2003, pages.26-27, Melbourne.