Australian Capital Territory

ACT Government introduces Bill to amend Heritage Act 2004

NEW heritage legislation introduced last week by the ACT Government will help to ensure the balance of conservation is maintained whilst meeting the needs of a growing city, according to Environment and Sustainable Development Minister Simon Corbell.

The Heritage Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 aims to create a more simplified, open and transparent process for registering and protecting the ACT's heritage places and objects and follows a review of the Heritage Act 2004 in 2010, which was required under the provisions of the Act.

The review of the Act, which is the primary legislation dealing with the identification, protection and conservation of the Territory's heritage places and objects, was undertaken by Duncan Marshall and made a total of 111 recommendations for improvement.

According to the government, the Amendment Bill seeks to:

  • Create consistency with the assessment criteria of other jurisdictions;
  • Remove appeal provisions where there is no natural justice argument for their retention, and achieves consistency with other jurisdictions and comparable legislation in the ACT;
  • Provide the Minister with powers to affect some registration decisions;
  • Amend statutory timeframes and legislated administrative processes around registration decisions to improve efficiency and effectiveness;
  • Create a simplified, open and transparent process for registering and protecting the ACT's heritage places and objects;
  • Ensure public authorities lead by example in managing heritage assets; and
  • Provide better integration of heritage legislation with the Nature Conservation Act 1980 and the Tree Protection Act 2005.

While the current composition and independence of the ACT Heritage Council is expected to continue under the new legislation, with the Council to remain the key body with responsibility for administering the provisions of heritage legislation in the ACT, there will be a stronger role for the Heritage Minister.

The Minister will have the power to affect some registration decisions where he or she believes there is a need to do so for reasons of public benefit, where a major policy issue is raised, or where a decision is likely to have a substantial effect on the achievement of the Territory Plan.

"I believe the call-in powers will achieve the best possible outcomes for heritage protection and conservation while also addressing the future needs, growth and prosperity of the ACT," Mr Corbell said.

"It is fitting that this Bill be presented in this – our Centenary year – to ensure the City's heritage is recognised and protected through contemporary best practice approaches," Mr Corbell said.

More information is available from the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate's Heritage website at <http://www.environment.act.gov.au/heritage>. Community submissions on the Amendment Bill are open until 14 June 2013.

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