Managing Privately Owned Heritage in NSW

Professional Associations


The efficacy of cultural built heritage (CBH) in Australian society has been in steady decline since mid-1990s. Privately owned CBH accounts for 90% of Australia’s historic heritage places (approximately 135,000 items nation-wide – Productivity Commission Report – 2006 (PCR- 2006). Private owners shoulder the lion share of the costs to maintain heritage properties. Government funding is scant and irregular. The community gets the benefit of heritage listings but at no cost to it.

Managing Privately Owned Heritage in NSW

Planning frameworks contain insufficient incentives for private owners to make it worthwhile
being an owner of a listed heritage place. PCR-2006 indicates that government is withdrawing from the heritage sector especially from the privately owned component. PCR 2006 further indicates that market failure pervades in the heritage sector but that it is not necessary for governments to apply any brakes to curtail it. Neo-liberal styles of governance amounts to a demotion of heritage as a public good in society. There is a concern that due to the lack of funding and incentives for privately owned heritage in NSW, the sector may become unsustainable;

  1. Listings will decrease or stagnate
  2. Governments will not have the resources to support the sector
  3. Owners will take matters into their own hands
  4. Regulation will become weak and ineffective
  5. The stock of heritage buildings will dwindle (irreversibly)

The trend of underfunding and under-resourcing is not only NSW bound but it affects all Australian States and Commonwealth jurisdictions.  The trend has been felt by other jurisdictions as well including Ireland, USA, Italy, Sweden, South Africa and many other countries. The trend amounts to a depletion in efficacy of CBH to the point where inappropriate decisions are being made and irreversible change results. CBH has both a private and a public apect. Yet the cost burden for the maintenance of the CBH stock has been unfairly placed upon private owners.

Should owners receive compensation?  Should the community pay more?  Will governments ever fund CBH under a neo-liberal model? Where does policy sit within such a predicament?

NSW administers CBH through four key planning instruments;

  1. Environmental Planning & Assessment Act, 1979 – locally listed items attached to LEP within each LGA (approx. 26,000 items in NSW)
  2. Heritage Act (NSW) – 1977 – administers State-listed items (approx. 1,650 items in NSW excl S 170 Register)
  3. Land & Environment Court Act, 1979 – deals with disputed heritage decisions by Councils and the Heritage Office.
  4. SEPPs – various State Environment Planning Policies

The time is now ripe to analyse how funding and incentive schemes for privately owned heritage currently operate in the NSW heritage management system (HMS) and;

  • to compare funding and incentive schemes across Australian States and Territories
  • to ascertain what innovations for funding and incentivising privately owned heritage are taking place in selected overseas countries such as UK, Europe and USA
  • to apply the information researched towards the development of a funding and incentive scheme for privately owned heritage in NSW
  • to discover the nature and reason for disengagement by governments from CBH generally (NSW, other Australian States and overseas jurisdictions). To analyse the ramifications of this in terms of the existing CBH stock and heritage policy
  • to canvass innovations achieved in other jurisdictions for the funding and incentivising of privately owned CBH
  • to prescribe improvements specifically for the NSW jurisdiction drawn from the above research.

Paul Rappoport – Heritage 21
26 September 2017

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