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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

30 June 2000

NATIONAL HERITAGE REFORM


The Commonwealth will reform its heritage protection structures to achieve more effective protection of places of truly national heritage significance.

Federal Environment and Heritage Minister, Senator Robert Hill said the Australian Heritage Commission had for some years recognised the need to focus Commonwealth attention in this way. The Australian Heritage Commission issued discussion papers on this issue in 1996 and 1997.

Senator Hill said the Register of the National Estate established in 1976 had provided national leadership.

"However, the list totalling some 13,000 items with 4,000 yet to be assessed, has grown to include many items more logically of state or local than national significance," Senator Hill said.

"Furthermore, protection mechanisms in the Commonwealth legislation have fallen behind contemporary standards.

"By contrast, State heritage protection systems now offered more effective protection.

"The Commonwealth would therefore introduce legislation in the Spring Session to establish a new regime for the identification, conservation and protection of a list of places of truly national heritage significance.

"The national list would comprise places of outstanding national importance and heritage significance to the Australian people. It would include places of natural, historic and indigenous heritage value."

Senator Hill said that places on the national list would be identified as a matter of national environmental significance under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The EPBC Act framework would ensure the appropriate role for the Commonwealth in protecting national heritage places, while also providing for a mechanism for the accreditation of State management arrangements.

Senator Hill indicated that the Government was committed to the establishment of an independent national heritage council.

"The Government will establish an independent, statutory heritage council (the Australian Heritage Council) to advise on the identification and conservation of places on the national list," Senator Hill said.

"The new council will also advise on heritage items on Commonwealth land and maintain a database of national, state and local heritage places. Additionally it will have a key role in developing and promoting national heritage standards."

Places which are included in the Register of the National Estate and which are not included in the list of places of national heritage significance will be covered by transitional provisions pending the accreditation of relevant State regimes.

Senator Hill said places outside of Australia that are of significance to Australians - such as Anzac Cove and the Kokoda Trail - could also be recognised under the new regime.

"As a result of these reforms the Australian Heritage Commission in its new form will be able to build upon the national leadership which has been its hallmark since 1975," Senator Hill said.

June 30 2000

Further information:

Rod Bruem (02) 6277 7640 or 0419 258 364

Commonwealth of Australia