WEST Australian Heritage Minister Albert Jacob last week released a proposed new Western Australian Heritage Act for a six-week public comment period.
The reforms were a 2013 election commitment and aim to modernise heritage laws and provide legislation to recognise, respect and celebrate the State's heritage. The proposed changes include the introduction of repair orders to prevent 'demolition by neglect' of heritage-listed buildings and a one-step State heritage listing process.
Mr Jacob said the Heritage of Western Australia Act 1990 had remained substantially unchanged for more than two decades and was no longer fit for purpose.
"The Act has its origins in the 1970s and 80s and is characterised by a lack of clarity, cumbersome and inefficient processes, difficulties in interpreting the legislation, and perceptions of its effectiveness," he said.
"The Liberal National Government is committed to introducing modernised legislation that is open, transparent, simple to operate and understand, and able to reflect best practice in the recognition and protection of heritage places."
The Minister said the Heritage Bill 2015 (Exposure Draft) was developed following two rounds of public consultation as part of the 2011 review of the Heritage of Western Australia Act 1990.
"While providing greater certainty and predictability for owners, the Bill hits the right balance between community expectations and recognised standards of heritage practices, including ensuring any development is managed positively and respects the heritage significance of places," he said.
Mr Jacob said repair orders would help prevent genuine cases of demolition by neglect by requiring an owner to make the place safe and secure. Repair orders are common in other States and would only be issued under strict conditions.
Other reforms include a one-step process to assess and recommend places for entry in the State Register of Heritage Places, significantly reducing time and costs, and making Heritage Council and Ministerial decisions on heritage registrations public.