Environment, Resources and Development Committee: Inquiry into Heritage Reform

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS (16:18): I move: That the first report of the committee, on an inquiry into heritage reform, be noted.

On 30 July 2018, the Environment, Resources and Development Committee resolved to conduct an inquiry into the current state and potential for reform of local, state and national heritage in South Australia. The committee considered a wide range of evidence from 144 written submissions, 29 witnesses and published literature. The committee also visited state and local heritage places and areas in the City of Adelaide council area and in the Adelaide Hills.

This inquiry has taken place in the midst of the most significant planning reforms South Australia has undertaken in 20 years. The committee heard from the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure and the State Planning Commission about proposed changes to legislation that protects local heritage with the implementation of the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016. Further, during the final stages of completing this report the planning minister, the Hon. Stephan Knoll, gazetted the state planning policies and released for public consultation phase 1 of the Planning and Design Code.

The issues surrounding built heritage and the processes to protect heritage assets are highly complex, with no easy one-size-fits-all solution. In its deliberations, the committee tried to ensure that the outcomes that people were keen to see were included in the recommendations but without being too prescriptive on what those processes should look like. The committee also felt that a staged approach to heritage reform, taking into account the planning reform process currently being undertaken, would be most appropriate for the agencies involved to work collaboratively and with flexibility toward achieving desired outcomes.

The committee heard that heritage is important to the community and the community expects state and local heritage to be protected from demolition and the impacts of undesirable development. The committee also heard that the community wanted a legislative framework that was simple and efficient and that enabled economic benefits to arise from protecting and investing in the state's heritage assets.

We also heard that the community was generally unhappy with the confusing and cumbersome sectoral approach to the protection and management of heritage and was desirous of change. In particular, the committee heard that the challenges and uncertainties about whether transition to the Planning and Design Code would result in improvements to processes were expressed by local councils, which unanimously called for greater clarity, consistency, efficiency and responsiveness from the new policy and legislative framework.

The committee concluded that a strategic and statewide reform of heritage processes and legislation was necessary and that any proposed reforms to nominations, assessments and listing processes for state and local heritage must result in places and areas that are protected by appropriate policy and legislative tools.

Further, it was a committee conclusion that ongoing collaborative implementation of reforms will be important in providing a future for the protection of heritage in South Australia. The committee also concluded that clarity, simplicity, transparency and accountability were important outcomes to achieve in order to increase community and stakeholder confidence in the processes for nominating, assessing and listing state and local heritage, and for certainty in development outcomes.

Another conclusion was that a stable, long-term funding base for management of heritage that results in a carrots rather than sticks approach to compliance be developed and maintained. Finally, the committee concluded that a review or audit needs to be undertaken using a statewide collaborative approach to address gaps in the state's heritage listings.

The recommendations in this report highlight the principles and themes expressed in the submissions that call for improvements to the current legislative and policy frameworks. These recommendations are made in the context of providing support to the significant amount of work currently in progress as part of broader planning reforms in South Australia. Specifically, the committee recommended the following:

  • state government commences a statewide collaborative and strategic approach to heritage reform through development of a staged process and that any reforms undertaken must result in streamlined, clear and responsive processes and transparent and accountable decision-making;

  • a statewide strategic approach to identifying heritage of local and state significance involving the community and interested stakeholders, which is appropriately funded by state government;

  • an audit or review be undertaken of local and state heritage places and contributory items with the aim of working collaboratively with community and local government;

  • a suitable long-term funding base (that incentivises management for heritage and disincentivises deliberate neglect of heritage) for the management of heritage be identified and secured; and

  • subsections 67(4) and (5) of the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016 should be repealed.

Along with other members of the committee, I wish to thank all those who gave their time to assist the committee with this inquiry. I would particularly like to thank the City of Adelaide, the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure and SA Heritage in the Department for Environment and Water for assisting in the organisation of the committee's two heritage tours.

I also wish to thank the members of the committee: the Presiding Member, the member for Hammond in another place, Mr Adrian Pederick; the member for MacKillop, Mr Nick McBride; the Hon. John Rau, who served on the committee until his retirement from parliament; his successor on the committee, Mr Michael Brown, the member for Playford; the Hon. Tung Ngo MLC; and the Hon. Mark Parnell MLC, for their contributions to this report.

Finally, I would also like to thank the committee staff, Ms Joanne Fleer and Dr Merry Brown, for their assistance. They certainly demonstrated a very strong interest in this inquiry and I think that showed in the work they did to assist the development of this report. I note that my colleagues in this place, the Hon. Mr Ngo and the Hon. Mr Parnell, will make contributions in due course. I have made it clear to the Hon. Mr Parnell that we will certainly keep this motion open until he returns to the parliament because he has a very strong interest in this matter. With those words, I commend the motion to the council.