The Council has a role in providing expert advice on heritage strategies and management plans made under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
In relation to Commonwealth agency heritage strategies, where the obligation rests solely on Commonwealth agencies, the Heritage Council provides advice directly to the agency. With regard to management plans prepared for Commonwealth heritage places prepared by Commonwealth agencies, these are submitted to the Environment Minister, and the Minister must, before making, amending or replacing a management plan, seek and consider comments from the Council.
Heritage strategies for Commonwealth agencies
An important element of the preservation and appropriate management of Commonwealth places with heritage values is the development of a heritage strategy - a document that integrates heritage conservation and management within the agency's overall property planning and management framework. Its purpose is to help the agency plan for, manage, and report on its heritage obligations in relation to protecting the Commonwealth's heritage estate.
The Council plays a role in examining heritage strategies and providing advice on their suitability. The EPBC Act requires Australian Government agencies to consult with the Council and take its advice concerning their heritage strategies (section 341ZA (1A) of the EPBC Act).
A heritage strategy must be prepared by each agency that owns or controls any property. The size and the complexity of a heritage strategy can reflect the size of the agency's property holdings and management responsibilities.
An agency has two years from the commencement of the new heritage legislation, or from the time it first owns or controls a place, in which to develop a heritage strategy and provide it to the Minister. As such, Council is concerned that a number of agencies have not yet complied with their obligations under the EPBC Act.
Completed heritage strategies
The Council has reviewed a number of heritage strategies. Of the 19 Commonwealth portfolio departments, the following four departments have completed heritage strategies:
- Department of Defence
- (the then) Department of Transport and Regional Services
- (the then) Department of the Environment and Heritage
- (the then) Department of Finance and Administration
Of these, only the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities has undertaken the mandatory three-year review of its heritage strategy.
A further three departments are some way through completing a heritage strategy.
The following Commonwealth agencies (which are not portfolio departments) have also completed heritage strategies.
- Australia Post
- Australian War Memorial
- Australian Customs Service
- Australian Broadcasting Corporation
- National Capital Authority
- Australian National University
- Air Services Australia
- Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor General
Additionally, the following Commonwealth agencies have also completed heritage strategies, which are due to be reviewed.
- Great Barrier Reef marine Park Authority
- National Library of Australia
- Sydney Harbour Federation Trust
- Bureau of Meteorology
The following three departments have advised that they do not own or control property and do not have to complete a heritage strategy:
- Department of the Treasury
- Depart of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
- Department of Veteran's Affairs
- Department of Human Services
There are a number of departments and agencies yet to complete heritage strategies. The obligation to prepare a Heritage Strategy rests of individual Commonwealth agencies. The Heritage Division of the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities is able to provide advice and guidance to agencies to assist them to meet their heritage obligations under the EPBC Act.
Management plans for Commonwealth Heritage places
The Minister must consult with the Council in preparing his advice to Commonwealth agencies on the making, amending or replacing a management plan for Commonwealth Heritage places (subsection 341S(7) of the EPBC Act).