Will the new Heritage Act be any good?

This week the Fremantle Society trotted along to Guildford to the building shown above, to hear about the new Heritage Act from Heritage Council officers, and to congratulate the Guildford Society for getting the whole of the Guildford Historic Town heritage listed. The Fremantle Society only managed to get half the original West End listed, as the Fremantle Council wanted to allow developers more freedom in the centre of town.

The gentleman above outside the building was rather early for the meeting, 150 years early in fact, as the image is a detail of a sensational, and yet to be published, photograph c. 1866.

The new Heritage Act came into force on July 1. In the first 29 years of the Act, the only change had been to increase the penalties in 2012 from $5,000 to $1 million.

It appears the new Heritage Act will seek more skills-based members to be on the Heritage Council. That can only be a good thing, given the reputation of the Heritage Council in recent years as little more than a developers’ club.

Listing processes will be streamlined and the interim heritage listing stage abolished. Similarly, the Heritage Council must meet tighter deadlines in dealing with providing advice.

Concern was expressed at the meeting that stakeholder consultation comes too late in the listing process.

Concern was also expressed that the Heritage Council appears to be more and more delegating decisions to local councils, when two sets of eyes on a heritage project are preferable.

Aboriginal heritage will still be covered by separate legislation, which itself is under review.

The key point is that NO extra funding is being made available to provide the carrots along with the sticks for heritage property owners. Not a single extra dollar.

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