Economic growth involves changes, usually to create some type of product, which in turn leads to consumption and waste generation. Heritage places are susceptible to loss of values through inappropriate change, impact from production activities and damage from waste disposal. These pressures can be exacerbated or reduced by factors such as the adequacy of statutory protection and the allocation of financial resources.
Resource extraction industries place pressure on heritage places directly and indirectly. Mining, gas exploration or logging may result in actual removal of features of heritage value, adverse change to geological substructures, erosion or changes to groundwater. These activities may also cause indirect pressures, such as loss of access to the heritage place for the people to whom it is important, visual scarring or loss of habitat corridors. Hunting and fishing can affect individual species or create conflict in land use, but may also be a significant and appropriate part of Indigenous heritage. Resource extraction pressures apply to both listed and unlisted heritage places.
Many heritage places are also valuable assets, and this underlying value can be a threat to conservation. Development at all scales exerts direct pressure on heritage places. Development may involve construction of new buildings or infrastructure, or changes to existing structures. New developments may affect land, require removal of existing ecosystems or cultural sites, or introduce uses that are incompatible with heritage values. Development projects such as mining, forestry and substantial infrastructure may result in total destruction or removal of heritage resources. Pressures also arise where developments have an adverse effect on the heritage setting, or restrict access or use.
The pressures of development are compounded by two factors. Firstly, a major problem with the process used to approve new development in Australia is that consideration of heritage impact (and other environmental factors) is often reactive—the linear nature of the development consent process sees the project announced (based on a financial feasibility study) and only then is a heritage survey completed. At this point, heritage is perceived as 'the problem', even though the heritage was always there and always a relevant constraint.
The second factor is a prejudice against nature and culture in favour of perceived economic benefits. In addition to these major risks, local heritage places suffer risks from destruction to make way for new development projects and the associated impacts of new development in the vicinity. In the case of Indigenous heritage, where native title and ownership rights are tightly connected with important traditional cultural practices, the underlying land value can act as a barrier to decisions based on culture rather than economics, with consequent adverse effects for the heritage value of the place (Box 9.10).