As I feel sure most people in the heritage protection movement are aware, Australian heritage protection at the Commonwealth level is close to a crisis situation. The departmental staff resources are grossly inadequate, and the system of assessment under the EPBC Act (including the Australian Heritage Council) is that developed by the Howard Government which had a minimalist approach to heritage protection. There is no sign of reform on the horizon.
The last major changes of heritage assessment in 2006 involved what was euphemistically referred to as a ‘streamlining’ of the assessment process. It could have been more accurately described as an approach which involved wholesale ‘axing of national heritage list nominations’.
The streamlining takes the form of a yearly agreement on a Finalised Priority Assessment with the scope for dumping those nominations the system cannot handle. They are discarded in spite of all the work put into them by the nominee and, in some cases, because they are in the ‘too hard’ basket as far as resources are concerned.
As an example of this last problem it seems likely that this year the Australian Alps National Parks will be placed on the National Heritage List; a highly desirable outcome. But what will happen to the nominations for the adjacent forest parts of the proposed Alps and South East Forests World Heritage Area? If these are thrown out the result will be tantamount to a beheading except in this case it will be the legs which are cut off the display of vegetation changes which occur along the ‘sea to snow’ spectrum.
The following are NHL nominations prepared by or in association with the author most of which face the executioner:
South East Forests and Western Alps
Greater Croajingolong Area
Greater Coopracambra Area
Greater Errinundra Area
Nadgee Nature Reserve#
Ben Boyd National Park#
South East Forests National Park with Egan Peaks Nature Reserve#
Bournda National Park and Nature Reserve#
Western Alps’ Link
(# Prepared by Fiona McCrossin of the Colong Foundation)
Norfolk Island - places with rainforest of National Environmental Significance
Red Road Cascade
Norfolk Island National Park and Botanic Garden
Others on Norfolk Island
The setting of the Kingston and Arthurs Creek Heritage Area
The Norfolk Island Coast (Australia’s oldest coastal reserve – 1794).
The Australian Antarctic Territory
Greater Wilsons Promontory Area
Great Otway National Park with Alcoa Lease and Coastal Reserves
Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage – additional geoheritage, natural beauty and cultural values.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Many of those receiving this call for help will know the values of at least some of these areas. If so please write to the Environment Minister (‘Tony.Burke.MP@aph.gov.au’) expressing your support for full and proper assessment of them, unrestrained by limited resources and an outdated outlook.
Even more important, please urge the Minister to a) institute an overhaul of the entire National Heritage system; and b) retain all nominations at least until the review has been carried out.
(National Heritage update by Geoff Mosley 8/5/08) phone (03) 9718 2998