Report of the EDO Workshop on Heritage Law

EDO Flyer
EDO Flyer

The Environmental Defender’s Office (EDO) Workshop  was held on 21st May 2013 from 6pm to 9pm in the Advanced Technology Centre University of Newcastle. Special thanks must go to Professor Tim Roberts and the Tom Farrell Foundation for hosting the workshop.

The University’s Coal River Working Party had planned to run a workshop on Heritage Law as part of its goals in ensuring our legislative frameworks are working effectively for our heritage. The new planning system white paper provided the opportunity to ask EDO to hold a workshop on the Draft Bill. I talked to Professor Tim Roberts about the proposal and he said that the Tom Farrell Institute would be pleased to sponsor the workshop.



2.1. Set up a team of people with necessary legislative expertise to review all local, state and federal legislation affecting heritage matters.
2.2. Draft amendments to achieve better outcomes for the safeguarding of our history.
2.3. Contact, negotiate and seek feedback on draft amendments with elected political representatives.
2.4. Present agreed amendments to elected representatives for support in Parliament.

Ring Bearers: Doug Lithgow, Keith Parsons, EDO Representative (TBC), Newcastle University Law School Representative (TBC)

It was a very successful workshop with about 50 participants. EDO solicitors Rachel and Nari conducted the workshop and  I wrote to EDO thanking them for conducting the workshop.

The workshop was very informative with very inspiring workshop leaders Rachel and Nari guiding participants through the White Paper and proposed Bill.

Planning has always been a moving feast and it takes constant energy to keep on top of the data and issues. Well done and thanks to all who attended.

I note that the EDO advertising flyer with the image of the Merewether Street Wharf development was very appropriate as it encapsulated one of the problems with the Honeysuckle planning.
The building shown on the Flyer was one of the first outrages of the Honeysuckle Development. It closed off the waterfront contrary to the Regional Plan (1997 Amendment 3): which was the minister’s own plan designed to trigger the Civic Design Plan for the area and view corridors.

At Honeysuckle the Minister for planning did not implement the promises or his REP and subsequent Ministers have never enforced the Growth Centres Legislation re their need to prepare an Approved Scheme for their gazetted Growth Centres. This is particularly important in the Hunter now because the HDC Growth Centre has been extended over the whole Hunter.
The white paper proposes more emphasis on regional strategies.

The White Paper adopts 6 themes:

1. Delivery Culture,

2. Community Participation,

3. A Strategic Planning Focus,

4. Streamlined Development Assessment and Approvals,

5. Provision of Infrastructure.

6. Building Regulation and Certification.

Need for the more embracing objective of Ecologically Sustainable Development. The rather narrow definition in White Paper only considers two of the ESD principles in the existing ESD legislation. Ecologically Sustainable Development requires the effective integration of economic and environmental considerations in decision-making processes.

Community Participation Charter is excellent but made difficult to enforce.
Additional Appeal Rights are needed. Checks and Balances are important and it will be difficult for the community to make merit objection once Strategy is set.

Four Levels of Strategic Planning Proposed:
1. State Planning Policies:  12 overall policies may be developed
2. Regional Growth Plans:  20 year plans setting vision, objectives and policies, Housing etc underpinned by an evidence base.
3. Subregional Delivery Plans: Delivery Framework, Identify precincts and zoning, Integrate with infrastructure and set building envelopes, Strong community Participation. Tested to achieve Economic viability and facilitated by Subregional Planning Boards.
4. Local Plans: The main legal document delivering the Strategic Vision, Facilitating assessment with Development codes. Development Guides and give local effect to the State Environmental Planning Policies.

Problems that may affect the community:
Strategic Planning Principles:
Prioritise economics growth at expense of social and environmental outcomes. No reference in planning principles to natural or environmental resource management or cultural heritage.

State Planning Policies are not strategic instruments subject to parliament or subject to judicial Review.

Environmental and Natural Resources are introduced at Regional Plan level but discretionary. Plan may include environmental targets. Parallel plans have already commenced e.g. Lower Hunter Strategy over the next 20 years – discussion paper Exhibition concluded last Friday 28th.

No legal provision seems to have been made for Environmental Studies even though evidence based plans are proposed.

Requirements for interagency concurrence and approvals are reduced and could effect consideration of Heritage. There is no discussion of Heritage in the White Paper.

I have tried to outline aspects of the New System and point to some problems discussed at the Workshop but for further information please visit:
EDO website and make a submission to the Department of Planning

Clearly the Coal River Working Party must continue to pursue its Goal 2. to ensure our legislative frameworks are working effectively for our heritage.

Doug Lithgow
Reporting for the Coal River Working Party

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