The adequacy of planning for heritage management can be assessed by considering the policies and plans in place that result in management actions to address major pressures and risks to heritage values. These plans and policies should also include allocation of roles and responsibilities for managing heritage issues.
Australia lacks leadership in heritage management at a national level, partly through statutory limitations on the role of the Australian Heritage Council, and partly through diminution of resources and responsibilities and, in a conceptual sense, from the absence of a national heritage strategy. j,68
This latter challenge may soon be addressed, as the portfolio budget statements for DSEWPaC for 2011–1269 indicate that the department will 'develop an Australian Heritage Strategy, which provides national leadership in heritage management, conservation and celebration'. The related key performance indicators suggest that the proposed Australian Heritage Strategy will be launched by June 2012.
The current federal role, however, is very limited:
…it is doubtful that the Commonwealth is currently fulfilling its obligations under the COAG [Council of Australian Governments] agreement to protect the nationally significant places it has accepted onto the NHL [National Heritage List]. Australian Heritage Council,79 p. 27
Council believes that to make the legislation effective the Commonwealth should lead and set standards in management and care of NHL places. Australian Heritage Council,79 p. 28
There has been to date a significant gap between the obligations the Commonwealth Government takes on through listing and its capacity to fulfil those obligations. Australian Heritage Council,79 p. 44
While these observations are particularly directed towards National Heritage List places, the Australian Government has a potentially instrumental role in setting standards and coordinating matters of common interest and practice, in line with the principles of the Council of Australian Governments. An extremely important issue will be the inclusion of heritage within our national narrative, whether by presentation and celebration, support for projects that have national relevance (such as heritage trades training) or encouragement of proactive strategic processes that lead to better integration of natural and cultural inheritance into future planning.
The 2009–10 annual report of the then Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts suggests that, among other responsibilities, the department will:
…develop and implement the Government's policies, programs and legislation to identify, protect, conserve and celebrate natural, Indigenous and historic assets. Australian Government Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts70
Unfortunately, although there is recognition and support for such national leadership,k there is a distinct absence of corresponding public sector resources. The limited resources available to the department and the limits on the statutory coverage provided by the EPBC Act mean that federal efforts focus on managing federal lands and agencies, places on the National Heritage List and Commonwealth Heritage List, associated processes for listing, and EPBC Act referrals and approvals. The department undertakes very few broader actions, especially in relation to local or state heritage, and some states have initiated their own heritage strategies (Box 9.18).
Even with respect to national heritage listing, action is curtailed by both resourcing and statutory processes. For example, amendments to the EPBC Act in 2007 provide that items are assessed for national listing only if they are placed on the Priority Assessment List after their initial nomination by the community or government. This amendment was considered necessary to cope with the volume of nominations received by the Australian Heritage Council. Nominations that are excluded from the Priority Assessment List do not proceed at all, which restricts the extent, coverage and effectiveness of the National Heritage List. From 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2010, only 23 places were added to the National Heritage List, 20 were under assessment, and 80 nominations had lapsed and were not being considered (DSEWPaC Heritage Division, pers. comm., July 2011).