Processes

2016

Heritage management processes are assessed by considering the governance systems in place that provide appropriate statutory responses, adaptive management practices based on effective monitoring systems, and adequate resources.

Statutory responses

The overwhelming majority of heritage listing processes and impact assessments occur at the state or local level, often as a reactive response to threats. In many cases, the multilevel and cross-jurisdictional rules cause duplication and inconsistent (sometimes contradictory) outcomes. This is especially the case where political intervention overrides heritage controls and values-based heritage decision-making. Challenges arise from land zoning, building regulations and development standards that place major pressure on heritage places. Inappropriate zoning and regulations may lead to unrealistic expectations of development potential. Development standards can create a perception that every site should be developed to its maximum potential, irrespective of the effect on heritage items on the site or nearby. Local regulations and guidelines can be extremely influential in this regard, because they represent the interface between the place, its owners or developers, and the authorities. These regulations and guidelines need to align with heritage values.

Environmental rating tools

Pressure on some historic buildings arises from growing interest in sustainability and the sustainable building agenda. Balancing heritage conservation and sustainable development can be challenging, particularly in commercial contexts. Embodied energy (i.e. the energy used to produce the building, including all materials) is an emerging issue. CSIRO has determined that the energy embodied in existing buildings in Australia is equivalent to 10 years of the total energy consumption of the entire nation (CSIRO 2008). However, sustainability legislation typically measures only the operational efficiencies of buildings, with the aim of saving water, minimising waste, and achieving immediate greenhouse gas savings by increasing efficiencies in heating, cooling and ventilation. Rating tools generally do not provide any recognition of the sustainability benefits of conserving existing buildings, and do not acknowledge the embodied energy inherent in these structures. They also do not consider the contribution that the inherent quality of materials makes to the lifecycle of a structure.

The implication of the current approach is that, rather than being conserved and refurbished, historic buildings will be demolished because they do not meet the contemporary green standards sought by industry and consumers. This risk will continue while rating categories do not award points for heritage and do not adequately recognise the value in retaining existing building fabric, in preference to incorporating renewable or recycled materials. However, appropriate approaches to assessing existing structures are being considered by a number of agencies, including, for example, the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA 2015).

The requirement for commercial building disclosure ensures that the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) for energy is available for large commercial buildings (soon to be extended to residential buildings). Because NABERS only rates energy efficiency, there is the potential for heritage buildings to become even less desirable to owners and tenants who seek higher energy ratings.

Sustainability objectives may also promote inappropriate changes that have adverse effects on individual heritage places. For example, using recycled, rather than traditional, materials may not provide an appropriate physical conservation outcome, and prioritising native vegetation over exotic species can cause adverse outcomes for significant cultural plantings and gardens. There are currently only very limited opportunities for incorporating cultural heritage values within assessed sustainable practice, with rare examples of successful practice (see Box HER38).

Adaptive management

Adaptive management is an important technique for effective heritage conservation. Developed for natural areas, adaptive management can be applied to both natural and cultural heritage places. It involves a continuous cycle of improvement based on setting goals and priorities, developing strategies, taking action and measuring results, and then feeding the results of monitoring back into new goals, priorities, strategies and actions.

Management systems in many national parks identify conservation needs and have well-informed decisions about management goals, resource allocation and impact assessment. However, formal monitoring and evaluation occurs in few jurisdictions. Australia provides periodic reporting to UNESCO on its World Heritage properties, and New South Wales and Victoria prepare reports on the state of their parks. The development-driven effects on off-park natural heritage places are addressed through the development-consent process. There are few proactive and comprehensive conservation management programs outside the national parks estate.

Indigenous heritage places within reserved lands usually have management systems that identify conservation needs, and involve traditional owners in decisions about impact assessment and resource allocation. However, outside the reserved lands system, Indigenous heritage decisions are typically reactive and not always well informed, particularly development-driven impact assessment, which may occur without knowledge of the total resource. There is little formal monitoring and evaluation or adaptive management of Indigenous heritage.

Management systems at all levels of government generally facilitate well-informed decisions about resource allocation and impact assessment for historic heritage. There are some excellent examples of innovative, values-based decisions leading to good outcomes (see Boxes HER38 and HER39). However, formal monitoring and evaluation rarely occurs. Management systems for listed historic places in public ownership identify conservation needs and generally adopt the methodology advocated by the Burra Charter (Australia ICOMOS 2013). For privately owned listed historic places, the systems for impact assessment and resource allocation vary greatly across jurisdictions, owners and site types.

The Burra Charter was revised in 2013, and Australia ICOMOS is developing a series of practice notes to supplement and provide more specific guidance on its application. These notes cover a wide variety of topics, including assessment of cultural significance, policy development, ethics, archaeology, Indigenous cultural heritage management, interpretation and new works (Australia ICOMOS 2016a).

Education

An important, but sometimes neglected, aspect of heritage conservation is the obligation to transmit or convey the attributes and values of heritage places to the general community. At the site-specific level, this may be achieved through interpretation initiatives and events. More broadly, it is also important that heritage is included within education curriculums and programs (see Box HER40). The inclusion of themes and content related to natural and cultural heritage within the Australian curriculum, across both individual subject areas (such as geography and history) and more generally, makes an important contribution to this process. Related programs and initiatives, which are linked to the curriculum, include education kits or school programs that allow students to connect with heritage places and support the desired learning outcomes.

Mackay R (2016). Heritage: Processes. In: Australia state of the environment 2016, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra, https://soe.environment.gov.au/theme/heritage/topic/2016/processes, DOI 10.4226/94/58b658bbe13a0