Posted on April 20, 2021 by Sue Puckeridge and Lachlan Penninkilampi

ALERT: NSW Heritage Act Review and Discussion Paper

On 7 April 2021, the NSW Government announced a major review of the Heritage Act 1977 (‘the Act‘).

This review is the first since 2007. Major reforms to the Act have not been made since 1999.

Review Themes

The intention of the review is to make heritage properties ‘easier, more affordable and more desirable to own‘.  It is governed by three key themes:

  • making heritage easier by making ownership and administration simple and cost effective;
  • making heritage a viable opportunity for economic growth, employment and community enjoyment; and
  • making heritage relevant by reviewing the objectives of the Act.

The review will report on the effectiveness of the Act and the State’s heritage regulatory system. This will lay the foundations of a Government White Paper and a proposed new heritage law.

Heritage NSW has prepared a discussion paper as the first stage of the review. It states the key question as follows:

[W]hat sort of regulatory model would facilitate the preservation, activation, and celebration of our State’s heritage?

Reform Proposals

The discussion paper breaks this down into 19 focus questions. These cover a wide range of issues including Aboriginal cultural heritage, environmental planning, enforcement, the listing process and the categories for listing of heritage items, and ways to incentivise the ownership, activation, and adaptive reuse of heritage items.

Some of the identified reform proposals include:

  • the introduction of a set of four heritage listing categories, being heritage of exceptional and iconic value, State significant heritage landscapes, State significant heritage, and local heritage;
  • the introduction of a community-driven nomination process;
  • a process of periodic review and amendment of listed items aimed at addressing site changes and ensuring the site’s full significance is protected, and an ‘abridged‘ delisting process which may be used where an item has been destroyed (for example, by bushfire or flood);
  • the introduction of standard exemptions, fast-track applications, and standard applications for permits to undertake work to a heritage item; and
  • the power to issue penalty notices if there is a non-compliance with heritage requirements for listed items and the introduction of investigative powers to enable Heritage NSW to gather sufficient evidence to prove an offence under the Act.

We note that no changes are proposed to be made to the listing of items of local heritage significance under councils’ local environmental plans.

Review Process

The review will be undertaken in Parliament by the NSW Legislative Council’s Social Issues Standing Committee. The Committee is expected to announce the process for review presently, including how stakeholders and the general public will be able to participate and make submissions.

You can find out more about the review from Heritage NSW by following this link.

If you would like to discuss this blog, please leave a comment below or contact Sue Puckeridge or Lachlan Penninkilampi.