In the lead up to the NSW State election on 25 March 2023, the National Trust (NSW) is calling on candidates to consider and commit to heritage conservation if they are elected. Here's what we're calling for, and what you can do to help make heritage matter.
Thank you to everyone who contacted candidates and helped make heritage matter during this year’s election. The National Trust is now following up with candidates to discuss next steps for delivering on the priorities.
National Trust Election Platform
This is what the National Trust is asking candidates and parties to do for heritage:
1. Stop disabling the State’s heritage legislation. Repeal Section 4.41 (c) and (d) of the EPA&A Act.
2. Commit to stand-alone Aboriginal Cultural Heritage legislation. Table an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage bill in 2023 and ensure its properly resourced.
3. Develop options to better protect remnant urban bushland and significant trees across NSW.
4. Legislate the mandatory consideration of the Government Architect’s Design Guide for Heritage.
5. Make grants available for the operational costs of heritage organisations, museums and galleries.
6. Incentivise adaptive reuse of buildings to encourage sustainable development and reduce carbon footprints.
7. Ensure the NSW Government properly cares for the State’s precious heritage assets as a responsible custodian.
8. Ensure state funding is made available so that every local council can employ a local heritage advisor.
National Trust Election Platform Responses
Read the major parties’ and independent candidate’s responses:
- NSW Greens
- NSW Labor Party
- NSW Liberal and National Coalition
- Alex Greenwich (Independent for Sydney)
- Victoria Davidson (Independent for Lane Cove)
The National Trust has co-ordinated both the Heritage Festival and Heritage Awards events on behalf of the NSW community since 1981, however in 2022 government funding was cut from $75,000 per year to $10,000. Both the NSW Greens and NSW Labor have specifically agreed to support reinstating the funding for this valuable program.
Candidates who individually responded to the National Trust with support for the state’s heritage:
- Jamie Parker – Greens Heritage spokesperson
- Hillary Green – Greens candidate for Pittwater
- Dominic WY Kanak – Greens candidate for Vaucluse
- Tim Dashwood – Greens candidate for Wahroonga
- Caroline Atkinson – Greens candidate for Davidson
- Izabella Antoniou – Greens candidate for Summer Hill
- Jenna Condie – Greens candidate for Blue Mountains
- Terry le Roux – Greens candidate for Manly
- Hilary van Haren – Greens candidate for Gosford
- Imogen da Silva – Greens candidate for Terrigal
- Ralph Stephenson – Greens candidate for The Entrance
- Doug Williamson – Greens candidate for Wyong
- Tracy Yuen – Greens candidate for Kogarah
- Jenny Goldie – Greens candidate for Monaro
- Penny Sharpe – Labor Shadow Minister for the Environment & Heritage
- Godfrey Santer – Labor candidate for North Shore
- Dr Michael Holland – Labor candidate for Bega
- James Griffin, Minister for Environment & Heritage and candidate for Manly
- Katie Mullens – Liberal candidate for Parramatta
- Karen Freyer – Independent candidate for Vaucluse
- Victoria Walker – Independent candidate for North Shore
- Penny Pederson – Labor candidate for Lane Cove
- Charles Jago – Greens candidate for Drummoyne
- Kristyn Haywood – Independent candidate for Wahroonga
Information correct as at 21 March 2023
How you can help make heritage matter this election
Here are some of the ways you can encourage candidates to support the National Trust’s election platform:
1. Share these issues with your local candidates – download this letter template and email it to your local candidate.
2. Write to the editor of your local paper about these election requests.
3. Join us on facebook and instagram and share our social media posts to spread the word.
4. Subscribe to our e-newsletter. We’ll share party and candidate responses with you, so you’ll know what each party has committed to heritage.
A closer look at the issues
With the NSW State election in March fast approaching, this is a valuable opportunity to raise public awareness about major threats to our natural, cultural and built heritage in NSW, and to secure policy commitments from the candidates for our heritage priorities. Here’s a closer look at our election platform.
Enable, don’t disable, our heritage protections
In May 2021, at the request of the State government, the Legislative Assembly Social Issues Standing Committee commenced a review of the NSW Heritage Act. The National Trust played an important advocacy role during this review. Our own detailed submission was joined by more than 300 others, many of which supported our position that the current Act did not require extensive change. The Standing Committee published its report to the government in October 2021, and the government response supported in full, or in principle, 25 of the 26 recommendations made – many of them proposed by the National Trust. The government is now in the process of drafting a Heritage Bill to amend the Act, which will undergo further consultation.
While the review process has shown that current controls are largely satisfactory, it has also highlighted that the Act would be more workable if it was administered more consistently and in a timely manner. Of particular concern, sections of both the NSW Heritage Act and the National Parks and Wildlife Act can effectively be ‘turned off’ or overridden when a project or application is deemed to be State Significant Development (SSD) or State Significant Infrastructure (SSI), under a provision in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act.
This bizarre situation where our heritage legislation can simply be turned off is unique to NSW, and is one of the reasons why items that are formally listed on our State Heritage Register – such as Central Station – continue to be at great risk and without adequate heritage protection. In fact, analysis prepared by the National Trust highlights that there has been a dramatic escalation in the number of projects designated either SSD or SSI that have ‘turned off’ the Heritage Act and its protections for their impact assessment, up from 48 in 2005* to 402 in 2021 (source: Heritage Council of NSW Annual Reports, 2005 – 2022). It is only by enabling, rather than disabling, the protections of Heritage legislation that we can hope for any serious retention and conservation of our heritage places.
Increase funding for local heritage
At present there is a genuine imbalance in the approach to resourcing conservation and management of heritage in NSW, which is negatively affecting places considered to have protection. The majority of listed heritage items in NSW are locally listed – some 40,000 – yet the bulk of administration and funding is focused on State-heritage listed places.
Many councils in NSW have insufficient resources to adequately manage places on their local heritage register. In some cases the number of items listed is also sadly lacking despite there being many properties that potentially qualify. Some councils do not have a heritage adviser at all, while others have access to overstretched consultants engaged on the slenderest of contracts – sometimes for just one day of work every two months.
Heritage is one of the reasons many people choose to visit or live in our regional centres. The National Trust is requesting that government commit to establishing an adequate, long-term program for local heritage and ensure that every local council has resources to employ or have access to a heritage adviser.
Based on our own experience in offering conservation advice across NSW, we firmly believe that having a dedicated team giving local heritage advice within government will achieve far-reaching results in a cost-effective manner. Financial and practical assistance should also be made available to councils to support thorough significance assessments and ensure local heritage studies accurately identify heritage places.