Preparedness for future pressures


The drivers and pressures that threaten Australia’s heritage do so in different ways, leading to different opportunities to prepare for future pressures or shocks.

Natural heritage is particularly susceptible to pressures that arise from climate change, including altered fire regimes, shifting ecosystems and traumatic natural disasters. Development pressures arising from population growth and changing land use also threaten natural areas and resources. Risk preparedness for natural heritage requires adequate protection for significant sites; a complete, representative reserved lands system; and management of identified pressures (see Box HER45).

Maintenance is crucial to building resilience for both Indigenous and historic cultural heritage places. Access to, and ongoing use of, cultural places is also an important resilience-building factor (Mackay 2014).

Development activity and changes in land use continue to exert pressure on Indigenous heritage, threatening both physical sites and traditional practice. Therefore, a key to risk preparedness is knowledge management, which requires the initial identification of significant Indigenous places and then appropriate guardianship and transmission of the associated traditional knowledge. There is also evidence to suggest that, for some Indigenous communities, understanding of threats posed by pressures such as climate change can directly influence both the vulnerability and the resilience of cultural heritage (McIntyre-Tamwoy et al. 2013).

Management arrangements for historic places directly influence risk preparedness. Historic places are particularly threatened by economic pressures, especially resource extraction and other intensive development. A resilient historic heritage resource would include listing and protection of multiple similar places so that damage to, or demolition of, one place does not affect the resource disproportionately. These actions could allow well-informed, values-based development-consent decisions to be made.

Mackay R (2016). Heritage: Preparedness for future pressures. In: Australia state of the environment 2016, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra,, DOI 10.4226/94/58b658bbe13a0