Eight Key Factors in Local Government Heritage Management Systems

Professional Associations


A heritage management system at local government level requires eight key elements as follows:


Let me explain each of these separate elements and why it is rare to find them all working together.  Key to the efficiency of the stystem is funding and resourcing.  Where does this come from – who pays for heritage? 

LISTINGS – sensible and meaningful listings that properly represent a local government area’s cultural built heritage through the decades.

CONSENSUS – a degree of consensus about what gets listed and how those listings are treated.

PROTECTION – adequate legislation to protect the identified items including conservation areas, landscape elements, buildings and places.

DELIVERY SYSTEM – a delivery system that involves communities and meets the needs and expectations of private owners and developers.

EDUCATION – an education and promotion unit that puts out positive messages to the public regarding the virtues and values of cultural built heritage.

POLICING – a robust regime of surveillance and policing in order to protect the local government area’s (LGA’s) cultural built heritage and this implies, fines and sentencing of offenders who take matters into their own hands against the public interest.

FUNDING – an adequate stream of funding in order to resource and underpin the myriad requirements of the heritage management system and finally.

AUDITING – a process of auditing that regularly assesses, appraises, evaluates and reviews the system in order to test efficiencies, measure effectiveness of policies or tweak those parts that are found to be unworkable or unmanageable.

It is rare that all eight elements will be found to be working in concert. Usually, a lack of funding accounts for a sub-optimal delivery system or an over-reliance by local government on private owners of heritage listed places to pay for the upkeep of the listed stock or a flaccid set of policies that are ill- conceived and unsustainable. There are many reasons why heritage management systems fall short of their mission statements and visions.

Primary amongst them is the difficulty by local government councils in balancing the private right to develop land against the public interest. Heritage is an area where this imbalance will be seen at its most crucial. In NSW, 90% of the listed stock is in private ownership (Productivity Commission, 2006). A heritage listing is seen by most private owners as an imposition. Restrictions are placed on development to a greater degree than those placed on non-heritage properties. In almost all cases, a listed property cannot be demolished and the development process (design, compliance and compatibility) involves specialists and professionals which pushes the cost of development up higher per square metre than is the case for non-heritage listed development. In addition, heritage properties are more costly to maintain. Specialist trades need to be employed and the relative rarity of certain materials increases the expense.

Heritage management systems that ignore the needs and expectations of private owners and developers or fail to address the comparative inequity in respect of development by either being too stringent on the side of conservation or absent of incentives, leads ultimately to mistrust and a loss of faith in the system by those who are most affected by it i.e. private owners of heritage places, developers, architects and planning consultants.

Paul Rappoport – Heritage 21 – 16 January 2015

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