National Trust Ethical Principles for Heritage and Conservation

Today (I received them on 9 March 2018), the National Trust has issued a set of Ethical Principles for heritage and conservation professionals. Allow me to state that Heritage 21 fully and robustly embraces every one of the eight principles listed below.

1. to give full, appropriate weight to the protection, conservation and enhancement of the heritage of NSW, with preservation of significance as the fundamental objective;
2. to acknowledge that the heritage of NSW includes both statutory listings at the local, state, national and international level and non-statutory places listed on key non-statutory lists and that the heritage of NSW also includes any item, place, object, or material evidence that could be considered, in a professional opinion, to be suitable for listing;
3. to give full and appropriate weight in Heritage Impact Statements to the protection and conservation of an item, place or object, not just observe minimal statutory requirements;
4. to ensure that, where Conservation Management Plans endorsed by an approval authority are in place, policies and recommendations are consistent with the CMP, unless substantial information and assessment, also endorsed by the authority, indicates an update and amendment is justified;
5. to make certain that heritage assessments are as accurate as possible with regard to listings and documented history, follow appropriate guidelines and are independent, impartial and unbiased.
6. to only make recommendations and provide advice within the scope of their experience and expertise and fulfil an overriding duty to assist the public rather than their client.
7. to recognize that “local heritage significance” means that an item has significance to a local area and that it may be rare and of high significance.
8. to follow the concept that the identification, conservation, continuing use and presentation of heritage is both in the public interest and a fundamental component of the public interest.
The National Trust of Australia (NSW) is a community organisation established in 1945 to advocate for the conservation of the heritage of NSW in all its forms. It was largely through the advocacy of the National Trust that the Heritage Act 1977 was enacted and that Heritage Schedules have been included in local government planning instruments in NSW. The heritage consultancy industry has developed since then in response to these statutory requirements.

Fig. 1 Clydesdale, Blacktown – NSW, Australia

The Trust, whilst acknowledging that client - consultant relationships are important, does not believe that heritage consultants should be advocates for their client’s proposals. Rather, they should provide clear, unambiguous assessments and statements that identify all relevant heritage values and unreservedly assess the impacts arising from their client’s proposed developments upon those heritage values. Such assessments are necessary for approval authorities to have a proper basis for decision-making in relation to developments in NSW and their individual and cumulative impacts upon the heritage of NSW.

The Trust acknowledges that there is a natural diversity of opinion and values within the community (and consequently within the heritage consultancy industry). However, the overall standard to which the Trust, and others, aspires is a collective opinion and a community standard, not any single perspective or personal view. Whilst this concept may, on face value, seem to be undefined, it is a concept with a long history in the legal system and for which there are many precedents. The role of the heritage consultant is to identify, understand and enact a collective, community standard to the best of their ability.

Paul Rappoport – Heritage 21
9 March 2018

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