Goulburn Mulwaree Council has called for greater flexibility on adaptive re-use of state and local heritage.
The comments are contained in a submission to a parliamentary review of the State's 1977 Heritage Act.
A final report, including recommendations, was released this week.
Local Government NSW president Linda Scott has welcomed the findings, saying that if adopted, the recommendations would give councils greater powers to manage local heritage and broader incentives for owners of such properties.
"Councils across NSW are passionate about our unique heritage buildings and have long called for changes to the 1977 Act to better enable them to protect and maintain historical properties," she said.
"This new report backs our calls for increased funding for local heritage grant programs, the development of a State-led heritage tourism strategy and the appointment of a dedicated local government representative on the Heritage Council for the first time."
Among its recommendations are:
- Enhanced enforcement powers for councils;
- Prioritisation of Aboriginal cultural heritage legislation;
- Greater inter-agency collaboration for cultural tourism using local heritage assets for improved to support economic growth; and
- Improved protections of heritage sites from development impacts.
Goulburn Mulwaree Council has expressed its frustration with the Act in regard to several sites, including the State heritage listed Kenmore Hospital and the former Saint John's orphanage in Mundy Street, an item of local heritage.
General manager Warwick Bennett said this week in regard to Kenmore Hospital that laws surrounding compliance breaches were not as "dictatorial" as Heritage NSW and his organisation would like. A protracted compliance order process has also applied to Saint John's.
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In a letter to the editor, Goulburn MP Wendy Tuckerman stated that in conversations with Minister Don Harwin she had repeated her exasperation and highlighted "the clear inadequacies in the Act to rectify the issues expediently."
The parliamentary committee recommended that the Heritage Act be amended to provide for intermediate enforcement powers.
This would enable graduated and commensurate responses to breaches of orders.
"The committee is concerned by evidence about the lack of enforcement action for breaches under the Act," the report stated.
"For the Act to be effective in meeting its policy objectives and a sufficient deterrent to unauthorised works/non-compliance, it must be enforced consistently and there must be consequences for the minority of owners who do the wrong thing."
'Compromise and incentives'
However Goulburn Mulwaree also wants greater flexibility for some sites. Strategic planning business manager Kate Wooll's submission pointed out that the area had several prominent state and local heritage-listed properties that were vacant and "subject to potential or ongoing vandalism or decline."
"Demolition by neglect is prevalent and is a significant cause of community concern," she wrote.
"In addition to this, owners who are not willing to undertake redevelopment/maintenance in a timely manner are also sometimes unwilling to sell the properties to other parties who may be willing to undertake the work.
"This is an issue in itself as the community may be keen to undertake action to save buildings/places but can be held to ransom when trying to purchase neglected sites."
She stressed that there were properties for which adaption and reuse was "almost unfeasible" due to very high conservation standards.
As such, there needed to be recognition that sometimes the ideal result could not be achieved and compromises were necessary.
For state heritage listed properties, such as Kenmore Hospital, the submission recommended that they be restored with conservation management plans in place before being sold to another party.
On the subject of incentives, Ms Wooll said the council already included an exemption in its Local Environmental Plan for adaptive re-use of heritage items.
But she suggested a government-led insurance scheme for heritage properties, further tax incentives by superannuation funds surrounding ownership or purchase, broadening of the federal government's Cultural Gifts Program and the introduction of a heritage enterprise scheme.
The committee has recommended the government improve incentives for owners of state heritage listed items to make adaptive re-use easier and more viable, provided it didn't compromise integrity.
The council has also called for greater recognition of Aboriginal heritage within the Act or in separate legislation. The committee has recommended reform of Aboriginal cultural heritage laws.
Ms Scott urged the government to accept all 26 recommendations.
The government will respond to the final report next April.
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